“I'm ready Nina.” Mayumi placed a sheet of paper before the fox on the bench. There was a perfectly drawn circle on it and there were curved lines that formed triangles. Each curved tip pointed inside resting on the edge of an inner circle that had a four-point star.
“Good job.” Nina said nodding with approval. It made Mayumi smile and she turned to the shrine. “The curves within this circle represent the wind alignment that you're attuned to. It reflects your ability to bend and warp the air around you.”
“So what's next?”
“Link the circle with your Mana.”
“Link?” Mayumi sat on the bench.
“You need to align yourself and your Mana with the wind so you can cast more focused spells. Unlike Megumi and Alysia, you're bound to only the wind element, so you're not going to get to cast spells from fire, earth, or water. Also, we need the bulk of your Mana focused on Purify, and since you've been a Magi for two weeks, it will take time. You only know Reflect and your sister is already ahead of you in the number of spells.”
“Let's get started now. I want to know more.”
“Emi is in danger. There's no telling when the Mukado may turn on her.”
“I understand, but believe me, what I am teaching is very rare, and it takes time. We can start with a spell list of five for the next two weeks. Which means Purify, Reflect, and three other spells of your choosing, however, your list will have to be a bit unorthodox in order to get Purify added. So don't expect to cast a lot blast spells like most Magi do.”
Mayumi tightened her grip on her skirt thinking of her sister. The memories of her in that old shrine, serving monster centipedes as their priestess, looked unnatural. Knowing that they ripped Emi's soul out of her body to complete a trial, she did not want to waste time. It burned her thoughts so much.
“Mayumi?” Nina said jumping off the bench. “Come with me.”
Nina led Mayumi past the shrine and into Megumi's old house. They went inside the living room through the damaged opening. Mayumi took her shoes off before entering. They made their way to an office but were devoid of any books. Tables and draws were broken on the floor. On the desk was a phone set in place. Nina hopped next to it and sat. Mayumi looked at the phone and saw two sets of foreign phone numbers. She picked up the phone and Mana covered it completely. Her hand jerked back.
“Amazing.” Mayumi said turning the phone aside to watch the Mana flow around it.
“We finally got it to work again. This solves your cell phone international calls problem. Is there a dial tone?”
Mayumi placed the phone to her ear.
“Good, dial this number on top.”
“Are these phone numbers to Magumi and Alysia Perez?”
“Yes. We should be able to reach them now.”
Mayumi's eyes grew wide and her heart skipped a beat. She only heard stories about the Guardians from Nina. She dialed the number and heard the ring. Mayumi never thought she would talk to them over the phone. She did not know what to say or where to begin, or even how to explain the situation. Then the ringing stopped.
“Hello?” A girl's voice said on the other line.
“She's speaking English Nina?” Mayumi said.
“Don't worry. It's Megumi.”
“Hey, who are you? You need to say something. You can't just call on my sister's phone and not say anything.”
“Nina she won't stop talking.”
“heh…” The fox smiled. “That must be Alysia then.”
“… you understand? You can't waste minutes like this if you call someone.”
“Yeah that's me. If you wanted to talk to me, you should have called on my cell phone instead of my sister's phone. That way, my sister's minutes wouldn't go to waste. You know how difficult it is to maintain minutes under our parents contract?”
Mayumi's hands made a crushing sound on the phone and a groan built up under breath.
“WOULD YOU SHUT UP AND LET ME TALK?”
“Oh… you're calling from Japan.” Alysia said in Japanese. “You should have said something. Here I am talking in English while you are not understating a single word I am saying.”
“Why does she sound like she's from Osaka?”
“Mayumi we don't have time.”
“She's still talking.”
“Put the phone to my ear.” Nina lifted her head up and leaned close to the phone. “Alysia. It's Nina.”
“Oooohh… Nina? How are you doing? I'm glad that airhead put you on. You know that she yelled at me for no reason. That was very rude.”
“Plus why is she calling on Megumi's phone if she was calling me. That seems pretty dumb.”
“Ehh? Focus? Why?”
“Don't say another word. Listen to me. We have a problem at the shrine.”
There was a pause. Mayumi and Nina waited for some response, but it took awhile. Mayumi gritted her teeth, lifted the phone to her, and opened her mouth.
“Nina.” Alysia said making Mayumi pause. “I had been feeling weird about the shrine. I couldn't stop thinking about it. What's going on over there?”
Hearing the sound of Alysia's voice, Mayumi calmed down and sat down on the nearest chair.
“My name is Mayumi Akamatsu. I am Just became a Magi and Nina became my teacher. My sister is a also a Magi and she is in danger. I need your help. Is there a way for you to come to Japan?”
“I wish I can come over to help, but I destroyed the Sacred Trunk. I'm sorry. Right now my sister and I are in the middle of a school year and winter vacation is not until Christmas and New Years.”
“That's three months away. It may be too late by then.”
Nina lowered her head but Mayumi rubbed her fur and saw her student smile.
“There is something you could help me with right now Perez-san.”
“Call me Alysia. Can I call you Mayumi? I mean I'm not in Japan, so it doesn't make sense.”
“I… I think you misunderstand our customs. Yes, you can call me by my first name.”
“Cool. I made a new friend! So what can I help you with?”
“I need to know how to use Purify.”
Mayumi received silence. She waited for some kind of response. Looking at Nina, she was unsure if this was too much to ask.
“It's really that serious eh?” Alysia's tone of voice changed. She sounded a little mature. It sent a chill through Mayumi.
“Yes. I must master it. For my sister.”
“What's her name?”
“Emi.” Mayumi covered her mouth and holding back her emotions.
“Okay. Listen carefully or you will mess this spell up. When Megumi gets back from the kitchen, we'll set up a plan for you to get your sister out. But first, tell me everything that has happened.”
Mayumi woke in her bedroom. She looked at the calendar on her nightstand. There was a circle marked on the first week of the month with the words ‘Mana Day' written on it. She thought of that day when Mana covered her body in the girl's restroom of her school. The shock was still fresh, even though she had made a lot of progress since. Mayumi flipped the page to the new month and there was a circle on Saturday. The words ‘Spell Training' covered the date. She just stared at it then faced the ceiling.
After bathing and clothing herself, Mayumi arrived at the kitchen and saw Emi eating breakfast. Mayumi sat down and received her plate from her mother. The sisters stared at each other, speaking only through expression. Mayumi made her Mana appear around her body. Emi did the same. There was a competition to see who could overwhelm the other. The force exerted from the Mana caused the table to rattle. They stopped just as their mother turned around to see what was going on. The twins displayed a light smile hiding their actions. As soon as their mother left the kitchen, they dropped the act.
“You've gotten stronger Mayumi.”
“Good. That means I'll be able to stop you soon.”
“I wish you wouldn't, it's hard enough as it is to fight your friend and her Inu clan when I try to cleanse the city. Why can't you understand that I am only trying to bring light to the world?”
“We've been through this. You're only a pawn to an evil plan, and I am going to get you out of there, whether you like it or not.”
“It would be best if you tell your friend to back off or she will get hurt.”
“Emi, I was very lucky to get the Inu clan to convince the other clans to let me and the Kitsune handle you. However, they have little patience with me stopping you. They are ready to kill you. Please if you come with me and let them take care of the Mukado, you will see that they were not as kind as you believe them to be. The Kitsune will help you learn spellcasting They'll teach us both.”
“Why won't you respect my decision?” Emi stood to her feet. “I want the Mukado to teach me spellcasting.”
“Emi.” Mayumi reached out with her hand but her sister walked away. She stared at her food trying to comprehend Emi's decisions. Every time she saw the impure Mana consume her sister, it would drive her into frustration that she cannot get the Purify spell right despite the advice she received from Alysia and the daily practices at the shrine.
“Who are you?” Emi said outside the kitchen.
“I am Keiko Urashima, Mayumi's friend. Please to meet you.”
Mayumi stepped out of the kitchen and approached the girls.
“Mayumi? I see.” Emi's eyes shifted to the side and saw Mayumi. “Excuse me… Urashima.”
Keiko watched Emi exit the house. Her eyes concentrated and saw the thickness of the impure Mana around Emi. She turned to Mayumi and smiled.
“Good Morning Keiko.”
“Good Morning.” She looked back and Emi was out of sight. “It's gotten worse.”
“Yeah. Emi is very stubborn. She still won't listen.”
“Don't worry. You just keep talking to her.” Keiko said and Mayumi nodded. “Let's go. We have things to do.”
Mayumi slipped her shoes on and grabbed her purse. She followed Keiko outside and left.
Mayumi and Keiko walked down the street. Ahead of them were tall buildings that reached out into the sky. Seeing the morning sun cracked between them made Mayumi smile. She noticed the cars have not moved since they arrived. The density of traffic was unusual for a weekend morning. However, she paid no mind to it and got to the subject at hand.
“So where are we going?”
“We are going to get you a combat outfit.”
“You can't go out fighting in regular clothes. They'll tear in battle. Plus with an outfit, you can get added protection.”
“I'm not running around in those tacky outfits you all where.”
“Heh heh…” Keiko took a few steps back and analyzed Mayumi's body. “If you're anything like your sister, you would look hot in a leotard.”
“That's not funny.”
“Relax.” Keiko continued walking. “You don't have to dress like your sister or me. There are plenty of fashion styles to wear.”
“I still don't like the idea of wearing costumes.”
“Trust me, you won't find yourself getting your mother to take you to the department store for new clothing after every battle. Plus it helps if your parents know less about your powers.”
Mayumi and Keiko passed by an electronics store where people were handing out flyers. The heavy traffic came to a standstill, and drew people's attentions without the girls noticing.
“So Keiko, you heard about the fight Nina and Goro led against the Mukado on Thursday.”
“Yeah. The clans were able to stop them from destroying the park. I'm sorry for your loss.”
“The Kitsune are planning a burial for two of their soldiers. It's sad really. Is this really supposed to be this way? As Magi?”
Keiko crossed her arms and nodded.
“Mayumi, we can be whoever we want to be. It's no different from a normal person deciding whether to be an office worker, a police officer, or a criminal. Its life as Goro said. There are Magi who just don't use magic and just have a simple job. Then there are us, who choose to use it fight those who want to hurt others. Its not supposed to be easy.”
“I… I know. It's just that when I hear that Magi kill, I wonder… how many of them were our age?”
“Enough… Enough to make you wish there was no magic in the world.”
Mayumi saw Keiko's arms shiver. She reached out with her hand and wanted to say something, but Keiko's eyes had a vacant look to it. A frightening feeling of someone who saw more than one could handle. Mayumi covered her mouth when Keiko held back her tears and smiled as though everything was all right.
“That's why the clans made it a rule to never fight us humans directly, but clans like Mukado don't care. Humans fight humans. Clans fight clans. That's why we only fought Emi while the clans took on the Mukado.”
The sound of drums blared from down the street. Car horns tried to fight the sound. Mayumi and Keiko saw the size of the crowd walking past them increase. They followed the group to the corner of the intersection and there was a parade going on. People in traditional Shinto garb followed drummers. Mayumi and Keiko quickly covered their noses as the strange stench spread around them. The people in the crowd had a drained look in their faces. They became pale and lost in the moment. Marching past Mayumi and Keiko was a wooden shrine carried by four men. Mayumi's eyes grew wide. She recognized the structure from one-month back.
“Hikari.” Her words caught Keiko's attention as they watched it pass by. Mayumi channeled her Mana and raised her arm but Keiko pulled her back. “Why? I can destroy it now.”
“Look around you.”
Mayumi saw small centipedes crawling all over the people, none of them noticing their presence. They creatures used their legs to spread the impure Mana on their bodies. She looked at the floor and saw one of them staring at her. It let out a strange screech. All the centipedes turned to her direction and Keiko pulled her out of the crowd. Mayumi struggled to break free channeling her Mana. Her eyes focused on the shrine wanting to demolish it, but Keiko used her strength to pull Mayumi through the crowd. They both fell outside of the crowd to the sound of people's cheers. When they looked up, they saw Emi on a platform dressed in a ceremonial priestess outfit, carried like a queen worshipped by her subjects. Their eyes trembled at the sight of the people clasping their hands together and praying to her.
“It was right there. I had it. I could have destroyed it.”
“I know, but the people…” Keiko said helping Mayumi to her feet. “The Mukado started building up followers and there's no telling what they could have done to them if you'd attack the shrine.”
“You don't know that.” Mayumi watched the people raise their hands up as if begging to Emi for something. “What are they going to do to the people?”
“Anything the Mukado wants.”
“No.” Mayumi said watching her sister and the transport leave her sight. “Emi.”
TO BE CONTINUED...