I tighten the tie in my hair as I gaze in the mirror. I love the caramel beige jeans I put on. Paired with the wide-collared sweater with the wooden buttons to match and my favourite knee-high dark brown leather boots, I’m all set. I wink in the mirror, a hand on my hip.
“Looking spiffy, Car,”
“Oh, why thank you,” I blush in the mirror, pulling a hand to my chest like a nervous school girl.
“Don’t mention it,” I lower my voice, putting a grin on my face.
“No, seriously. Don’t mention it!” A voice comes from behind me, making me jump with embarrassment and shock.
Kaede stands in the doorway, a stupid smile plastered on his gorgeous angular face. His black hair – long enough to flop in front of his eyes, covers his eyebrows and causes him to flick his head to move it out of the way. If I wasn’t so embarrassed from him watching me in the mirror I’d tell him how cute he looked. Now there’s no chance of that.
“Oh my God! Don’t watch me like that,” I glower from the mirror, hugging my chest despite being fully clothed.
“I wasn’t at first. I heard you talking to yourself. Those should be my lines, shouldn’t they?” he asks playfully.
“I seriously doubt you’d use lines like that. They don’t sound very ‘Kaede’ to me,” I say, my eyes closed, head turned up.
“What, I could try. See, watch: Hey there, sexy,” he says in a deeper voice, unnatural to his own.
“Oh my God, that sounds weird!” I complain from the mirror.
“Only as weird as you want it to be,” he continues in the same voice, taking a step into the room. “This is my impression of Andrei,” he says with a wink. I see it from inside the mirror and I spin around.
“The wink!” I gasp. “Not the wink!” I say sarcastically.
“Oh, yes baby. You can’t resist the wink,” he winks again and I mock a fangirl squeal.
We both break down into fits of laughter, hugging our stomachs as we gasp for breath.
“My impression of Andrei was pretty accurate, wasn’t it?” he huffs, looking at me from a bent over position.
I am folded over similarly, catching my breath. “Bang on, I’d say.”
He claps me on the shoulder and we continue into another fit of laughter before we’re interrupted by a knock. We try to compose ourselves before heading to the door.
“Are you expecting anyone?” he asks me.
“Yes, it’s probably Hitomi. We’re supposed to train together today,” I say, reaching for the handle.
“Training? In that?” I suspect he raises an eyebrow, but I can’t tell with how long his hair is. His voice rises, though and I know he is skeptical of my wardrobe choice.
“Yea, in this, silly. What’s so wrong with my outfit?” I ask him, placing my hand firmly on my hip for dramatic effect.
“Nothing, nothing at all. Just, usually, you get wet and this doesn’t seem like the kind of thing you want wet,” he shrugs. “Especially the leather boots,” he points at my boots.
“Well, I have to wear something to the training rooms. Besides, I have my bathing suit on underneath. Also, I’ve learned that trick, the same one Kat knows, so I don’t ruin my clothes. ‘Cause I’m a pro!” I emphasize the words.
“Ok, Ok. You going to open the door?” he looks at the door and back to me, questioningly.
“Oh, right! Sorry!” I call as I twist the knob and pull it open. Hitomi stands on the other side, about three inches shorter than me, short hair bobbing about her shoulders and framing her clear round face. She wears black tights and a long pale blue sweater that hangs to just above her knees and practically drowns her hands. Around her neck is a pair of blue Beats headphones. She stares at me with her gorgeous rainbow eyes. How unique, I smile.
“Good morning Hitomi!” I greet her.
“Good morning, Caroline san,” she replies, saying my name with her Japanese accent. It sounds more like kalolain, with a rolled l-r sound.
“You don’t have to call me san, we’re friends aren’t we?” I say gently.
“Friends?” she asks, tilting her head slightly.
“Yes, friends. Right, Kae? What’s that again in Japanese?” I ask him.
“Tomodachi,” he answers.
“Right. We’re tomodachi,” I repeat.
She nods, pink blossoming on her pale cheeks like pale sakura flowers. “Sorry. I’ll call you Caroline. Thank you,” she says in a small voice.
“I hope I didn’t offend her,” I whisper to Kaede, suddenly feeling bad.
“No, I think she’s just reserved. I don’t think you have to worry about offending her,” he nods assuringly.
“Alright,” I turn back to Hitomi. “Shall we go train together?” I ask.
“Yes. Ikou,” [let’s go,] she nods, stepping back and turning in the hall.
I follow her into the hall and turn to Kaede. “Did you want to come?” I ask, not sure what he had in mind.
“Nah, I have some research to do and programming for the new app updates. Also, I have an appointment with Cliff on some security cam design that can detect magic and stuff. You girls have fun!” he waves.
“Alright. See you later maybe!” he shuts the door, leaving Hitomi and I in the hall alone.
“I’m excited to train with you, Hitomi. We haven’t trained together before,” I say a little nervously. I’m worried about speaking too quickly or saying something she won’t understand. Her English has improved but I know absolutely no Japanese. Hopefully, we won’t have a problem.
“I also am excited. You are a water Guardian. I am the Wind,” she says a little stiffly.
“Yes. I wonder, how will our sparring work.”
“Sparring?” she looks at me with curious rainbow eyes.
“Umm, fighting? Training. A different word for training,” I try to explain.
“I see. Thank you.”
“No problem,” I perk up. Phew, I’m glad that got sorted out quickly. We walk down to the training rooms in silence. I’m not so sure what to talk about. Sometimes I hear her muttering softly under her breath, barely audible. Selene mentioned she spoke to a spirit or something. Perhaps they’re having a quiet conversation in Japanese. I don’t want to interrupt so I remain silent till we arrive at the training rooms.
We take the first available room and lock the door behind us. Hitomi stops by the door as I head to the centre. I turn around and see her watching me, silently.
“Well, you don’t have to stand way over there. You can join me here,” I insist.
She looks to her right, a little nervously, and pulls off her headphones, placing them on the hooks by the door. When she’s ready, she steps forward, stopping a few feet in front of me and widening her stance. I notice she’s wearing those Japanese socks, the ones with the separate toe so you can wear them with flip-flops or whatever they’re called in Japan.
“Are we using swords or magic?” she asks.
I look at the weapons rack with a nervous sigh. “I don’t know how to use weapons yet. Is magic ok?” I ask her.
“Ok,” she nods. I feel a slight coolness in the air as a breeze blows through the room.
I guess it’s time to get my water on. I focus on the energy within me, the energy I feel as the ebbing and flowing of the water. It’s not time to go full water yet, but I want to use the water in combat against the wind. I hold my hands out, palms facing out as I gather the moisture in the air and condense it into orbs in my hands.
I start, throwing the water at Hitomi with the force of a tidal wave. She seems to sidestep it effortlessly, throwing a backhanded blast of wind in my direction. It oddly reminds me of that cartoon Kaede made me watch, the one about the air bender – Avatar, I think it was called.
I can hardly tell where her wind is as I’m hit square in the chest and sent backward a few steps. I grunt as I right myself, finding her position with my eyes.
I command the water to form smaller, needle-like shapes, like darts. Then, as she moves from one stance to another I predict her next move, shooting the water at her. I send on left, making her dodge right as I send the others right. She ducks as one water dart clips her left shoulder. She ducks into a roll and I advance.
We exchange blows when she comes up, her wind slamming into my arm as my water splashes into hers. We dodge each other as we circle one another like lions, our eyes on our quarry. It’s time to up the ante.
I shift my arms into water, using my magic to make more. The breeze blows stronger. I throw my hands to the ground, slicking it with water as I do a cartwheel to the left. I pull away, forming a string out of the water and flicking it like a whip. The water stretches, reaching for Hitomi’s arm as she spins out of the way. She hops over the wet floor, landing gracefully on the other side as she evades the watery whip.
She hurls the wind at me and I feel something like ice slice through my arms. I shift into water to evade the pain. When I look up I feel a stiffness in my arm from the direction the wind blew from. The outside edge of my watery form as cooled, forming an icy layer – that wasn’t from me. I think she’s trying to harden my water.
I speed up the movement of the molecules, warming the water and melting the ice. When I’m thawed, I start raising pillars of water around the room. Her head spins around, frantically, counting the pillars. I grin as her head turns back to me and I melt into the floor, hiding amongst the columns of water.
Hitomi steps through them, looking around. I command the water to reach for her from multiple directions. Her face grows alarmed and I see her eyes light up and her body shifts, becoming a mirroresque, iridescent dragon. She flies through the columns, shooting gusts of wind instead of fire from her mouth to block the water that reaches for her.
I move to the edge of a column as she approaches me, ready to attack. The wind blasts the columns as she moves, forming an icy wall as she passes, freezing the water. I growl in frustration. I can’t attack and melt the water at the same time, I’m not coordinated enough.
Her dragon form blasts through the column I’m hiding in, knocking me out and splashing me to the floor. The wind in the room is stronger now. It feels like a tornado. I push myself up in time to dodge as she turns around, preparing for another attack. The wind shifts with her, blowing against me as I turn to face her.
I duck as she flies into me, leaping up around her neck and grabbing hold of her scales. I make the water thin, focusing on the cooling of its molecules, freezing it. The wind slows as the water turns to ice. I feel her body go rigid and I slide off as she suddenly disappears, her human form landing on the icy floor, feet sliding in a stable stance, spread wide.
She comes to a stop, a frosty layer of ice along the back of her right shoulder and up her neck. She holds her hands out, forming two mini tornadoes in her palms. I watch as they grow in size, becoming a few feet tall. I hold my own hands out too, forming two funnels of water, the same size.
Together, we wait, watching, gathering energy in our handheld storms. She crouches low, widening her stance as I take a step forward, pulling my right arm back, ready to hurl the funnel at her.
In a split second, our hands are empty as the tornado and funnel are hurled across the room at each other. We both stare, entranced as the two elements collide in a gusty wet explosion. They explode outward, uncaring of who they hit. A thousand little frozen shards of frozen water shoot in every direction. I spin around back to the ice as it advances toward me, shifting my body into water, hoping I’m fast enough.
I feel the ice impact my liquid form, passing through me, slowing down on impact and shooting out my front like a bullet through a balloon. I hesitantly look over my shoulder at Hitomi, hoping she’s found a way to block the dangerous ice.
As I turn to look, dropping my water form, I see her momentarily, hands extended out in front of her like some character from Dragon Ball Z, her face scrunched up as she concentrates on the air around her. She maintains the position, unmoving, despite the ice being hurled away from her.
Away from her, but back into me. I stand directly opposite her and the ice hits me before I realise what’s happening. I feel a tiny pin pricks all over my upper body as the ice slices me like glass. I gasp, falling back with the wind. I briefly catch her eyes as I fall backward onto the floor.
I hear her steps race toward me, her shadowy form hovering over my vision.
“Caroline! Caroline san! Are you ok?!” Her voice is shrill and panicked.
I must look a mess, I feel awful. Maybe awful is an understatement. I wasn’t expecting it to hurt so much. When I try to answer, everything hurts.
“Don’t move. I heal you!” she yells. I try to stay still, but the pain is everywhere and I want to squirm away from it. I see her hands hover above me as I hear her mutter things in Japanese. I see her glowing faintly and soon the pain is gone.
She rests her hand on my shoulder, holding me down. I lay there, processing what just happened, thankful it wasn’t worse.
“How it feels?” she asks, brows pinched together.
I look at her, a little shocked and embarrassed. “Better. Thank you. You reacted well,” I compliment. I should have stayed in water form or even turned into it after the ice hit me. Maybe then the wounds would have healed. I’m not sure really but it’s an afterthought I have, now that I can think straight again.
Hitomi’s head tilts to the side, a look of puzzlement crosses her face.
I sigh. “You are a strong mage. You think fast. Thank you, again,” I smile weakly.
She grips my arm and helps me into a sitting position. “You know many things of water. You are… a good fight,” she tries.
“Fighter,” I correct. “A person who fights is a fighter.”
“Oh, thank you. You are a good fighter, Caroline s-” she cuts off.
“So are you. I admit I’ve not had so much training. I used to study science before I came here,” I tell her slowly.
“Oh, you went to school before here?” she clarifies.
“Yes, I was a university student. I studied science and met Kaede and Andrei there. Then, Kaitlyn showed up one day and told us we had magic. She… saved our lives,” I find myself reminiscing. “She brought us here to learn about magic and that was almost six months ago now,” I look up and see a look of severe concentration on her face.
“Oh, sorry. Maybe that was too much,” I blush.
“I try. I need to study more,” she replies.
“You’re doing fantastic! It’s been what, two weeks, almost?” she nods in agreement. “And you’re in high school right?” I ask.
“I graduate from high school two weeks before,” she says, rocking on her heels.
“What? Oh, right. Japanese schools start the school year differently. Wow, you remind me of a friend I had, Ryan.”
“Ryan?” her head tilts to the side. It’s a cute gesture as her hair also tilts, giving her the impression of an owl.
“Yes, she was maybe a year older than you. Just out of high school,” I explain, looking down at my knees as I speak. Remembering Ryan hurts a little. I find that I still miss her.
“Is she gone? Outside?” Hitomi asks.
“No, she got…” I choke on the word. “That girl, in the desert with you, she killed her.”
Hitomi’s hand shoots to her mouth, a shocked look in her eyes.
“They are very dangerous people, the two you were with,” I say.
“Yes, abunai hito desu ne.” [dangerous people indeed.] she shifts her eyes to the right and nods, listening.
“Who do you whisper to?” I ask, a small smile growing on my lips.
Her cheeks flush and she leans back, resting on her backside. I wonder why she is so shy sometimes. I don’t think it’s just her English.
“Kaze sama, is my – senpai? My one friend from time when I was small,” she whispers.
“Yes, he is a wind god of Japan. He is my wind god.” Her broken English sounds really cute and makes for an interesting explanation.
“So, you can see your magic, manifested, and it talks to you?”
She turns her gaze on me, perplexed. “He is – ghost, miteru.” [looks like.] “Only me, only I see.” She lifts her hand up and holds it against something I cannot see. I glimpse her aura and I can sense a shift in the wind, but I don’t see what she does.
“That’s fascinating. My water, it’s a voice in my head. I don’t see anyone. I wonder if I could make it like a person, or if each element is just different that way,” I muse.
“Kaze says he always had a shape like person, from long time before. First person to see him, saw him as man. The gods in Japan look like humans but have power. So Kaze has a human shape, looks like human.” I scrunch my lips together, trying to interpret her English as I listen.
I hold my hand up, creating a ball of water and reshaping it into a fish. I notice Hitomi watching, intrigued. I wonder if I could make the water take a form and speak to me like that, rather than being a voice in my head. The thing is, water is everywhere. It makes sense that I would hear it from within. The wind, it is also everywhere, like a voice on the wind, so I suppose it makes sense for the wind mages to see it as a person, or hear it on the wind rather than from within. Still, it’s curious.
Hitomi’s eyes shift between her unseen guardian and the water and because I can’t see I don’t know what’s happening, but suddenly the water in my hand, the fish, morphs, changing its shape without my command.
I watch, curious, as the water elongates in my hand into a five-inch pillar. From the pillar grows arms and legs and a face takes shape. Suddenly, the water looks like a man in a kimono, a sword at his side and hair pulled back into a ponytail that hangs to his waste. It still looks like water, no colour or specific features, but I distinctly see a man, a Japanese man.
“That is Kaze sama! Small Kaze sama!” Hitomi gasps. “Sore wa dou shimashita ka?” [How did you do that?]
“Maybe, the water and the wind are reacting to each other. They are close to each other. Like, water falls through the sky as rain, and the ocean is moved by the wind, making waves. They interact a lot in nature. That’s so interesting!”
Hitomi nods, though, I’m sure my English was too complicated for her to understand. Perhaps her Kaze sama friend told her something similar.
Suddenly she gives me a small smile and looks me in the eyes, speaking in a small voice. “Kaze sama said we should be friends.”
A bubble of excitement rises in my stomach and I clap my hands together loudly. “Oh, I’d like that! Let’s be friends!” I exclaim happily. I grasp her hand in both of mine, holding it up between us. “I’m so happy we’re friends! Say, do you like swimming?”
“Swimming? Yes, I swim in the sea,” Hitomi says.
“Great! Do you want to maybe swim with me? I can ask Kaitlyn and the others to join us! I have to teach her how sometime, so she can teach me a weapon. What do you think?”
“Think? Together, with Kaitlyn and other people? I say Ok. Is the sea warm here? In Japan, this time no swimming there isn’t.”
I grin, correcting the English in my head. “Maybe! Let’s ask the others!” I stand up, glad that Hitomi was able to heal me. We head to the door and I hold it open for her as she grabs her headphones. Now I gotta find Kat.
By Kayla West