1: The Girl and The Cat

 

“The flow of Karma is based in circles and spirals. So too is the flow of mana, the flow of the divine and magical energies of the universe. Yes, there are positive and negative polarities. Yes, there are elemental variations. However… too many spend too long focusing on this. Overlooking, the oneness,…the uniformity that lies latent in all matter and all forces.”

She sat at the back of the room, about six feet two inches, tall for her age. Taller than most would expect for a grown woman, never mind a child.  She bore pale toffee colored skin, freckled from her time working under the sun. Her hair was a pale white. Her eyes were red, dark red, almost passing for a light brown.

She sat amidst a small crowd of her fellow students. Other twelve to fifteen year olds who were all eagerly drinking in everything that the teacher in the front of the room had to show them.


They watched with rapt attention as the bearded man expounded on the nature of the universe while going through a set of slow, smooth flowing, movements.

The girl was no exception, and for all that her face was impassive, looking likely slightly dull and listless, there was no denying the sparkle in her eyes.

A sparkle that grew especially bright as the teacher stomped hard on the ground and sent himself flying several feet into the air. Spinning like a top  before  gently descending like a leaf in the wind.

There was applause, and even some whistling.


The middle-aged teacher soaked a bit of his student’s excitement in, faintly and briefly smiling to himself before calling for silence.

“Now, taking what I’ve told you and what I’ve shown you, we shall have the first assignment for the month. I will have you awaken your power, your mana. The sooner you do this, the sooner you will be able to train, to cultivate. The sooner you are able to train and cultivate the faster you will get stronger. The stronger you are, the stronger you will become with each time you level up. Understand?”


The word “Understand” was a key phrase, the magic signal that the teacher used to let the class know that the man was done with his lecture. And well trained as they were, they knew exactly what response he was waiting for.

“Understood, Teacher Markel” said the students. Speaking as a chorus. Their unified voices loud and booming, despite any individual reediness or softness.

They students stood as one, or at least they tried to, rising slightly sloppily, a small amount of lag and disorder being created by those whose attention was elsewhere and those whose legs had fallen asleep.


The girl, Innes, was one of those whose legs had fallen asleep. Making her wobbly as she stood.

Eventually, she, and everyone else in the class managed to stand. Then once they were all standing they bowed.

Bowing deep bows that bent their backs in half making their faces parallel to the ground.

“Thank you for your guidance, Teacher.” said the chorus of young voice.


For his part the teacher bowed his little shallow bow, before softly replying with a,

“And you for properly listening..”

And with that said, the class was dismissed.

The students filed out of the room, some of them heading for the cafeteria, others heading for their rooms or to the school facilities.

Teacher Markel’s classes were always the last class of the day.


The girl was the last to leave.


As she left the dojo, as if by magic, sliding from somewhere within her shadow, there appeared a cat, or perhaps it was a dog, or perhaps it was neither.

It looked more like a living plushie, or maybe some rare and inexplicable magic beast that was born with what looked like stitches in its side and gleaming stone eyes, red like rubies or fire-amber.

No matter what it was, it was very pink and its fur was very fine and soft.

Its body was small and its leg short, yet somehow each stride it took was long enough to match the extremely tall young lady beside it.


Fluffy in a way that made the visible dread and caution the girl seemed to display as she interacted with the creature look most peculiar to any who might have been watching.

The girl looked behind her, as if not expecting its presence,  even though she’d definitely known it would be there. She bit her lower lip as if unsure of what to do.

Then finally she mustered enough courage make herself speak to the little creature. Speaking softly lest others hear her talking to the cat and she be thought even stranger than other’s already thought her.

“Um…so-…so there you are little Master. Come along.”

The Cat merely stared at her, never uttering a single mew, or meow before trotting after her. Its steps slow and regal. Full of an unhurried haughtiness that might well be more suited for a mighty conqueror of several worlds.


The girl lead them back to her room, where she had two bowls of porridge from the day’s breakfast stashed,  kept on her little table, stored in two lidded plastic bowls.

Into her bowl she sprinkled a small handful of meat and dried fruit. Pemican bought as a treat from one of the shops that neighbored the Academy.

The second bowl was placed on the ground, in front of the cat. It stared up at the girl, with eyes that were deep and a gaze that was heavy. Watching as the girl bit her finger. Biting hard enough to break the skin so she could drip a few drops of blood into the porridge.

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