“Take off your shoes,” I commanded.
An gave a sideways glance at me and slowly began to take off her shoes. “Okay…”
She sure had a way of making you question a perfectly rational request. I closed my eyes and counted to five. When I opened them, she was still removing her shoes at a snail’s pace.
“An!” I snapped, unable to resist reacting to her lackadaisical attitude.
“Okay, okay,” she said, as she flung her second shoe at me.
“I’m going to pretend that didn’t just happen, mostly because I’m thrilled your shoes are finally off.” I walked over to her and dragged her from the path to a few feet to her right. “Stand here,” I gave her a glance to preemptively shoot down any smart responses she might have for me, “Try to draw the energy through the grass.”
I heard her mumble something about bossing around the kingdom’s princess. Fortunately, An still listened to me. She began to bend down and reach her palms to the ground.
“No, no,” I chided, “Use your feet! I didn’t have you take off your shoes to enjoy the grass between your toes.”
She gave me a blank look, concentrating on her energy-draw, before suddenly jumping over to the side in excitement. “Oh!” Her eyes went to the spot where she had been standing as she burst into laughter. An shook her feet and placed them back in the grass.
“What happened?” I questioned her, as I crossed my arms and tilted my head to the side. I knew exactly what happened…
“I can take energy through my feet! I have useful-gorilla feet now. I’ll have to work on…” A blank look encased her face. This time it was hopefully due to concentration.
I took the time to revel in the fact that I had come up with a decent idea for her, especially considering my limited expertise. The success burned warmly in my chest, kept safe from the chilly winter air – well, as chilly as the increasingly warm Ikalgan winters could be.
What could I add to her arsenal next? I clasped my hands behind my back. My only other idea, for now, was a bit dangerous for her training. I’d have to hold off on asking her to try it.
I still heard An yipping excitedly in the background. Her powers would develop to be incredible shortly enough, with or without my help.
A carriage rolled up to the side of the pasture. It was similar in build to one of Ace’s or Shannon’s carriages, but this one had a different color scheme. Who would be coming out to this spot? We were far from the wealthy’s hotspots.
A boy’s head popped out, decked out a shining green. It was Sledg. The rest of him jumped out of the carriage and he jumped in the air before falling and rolling head over heels. He picked himself up and showed no signs of embarrassment as he ran the rest of the thirty feet to me.
“What happened there, little man?” I adjusted his crooked hat.
“I almost forgot! Gertha said I shouldn’t change while dressed up, I’d fall right out of my clothes!” He answered.
I doubt rolling in the dirt would be much better in Gertha’s eyes. I wonder if she cursed herself yet for agreeing to come aboard. Sledg was a handful. “What are you up to?” I asked.
Sledg pointed to the carriage. “Sylmin sent the carriage for me. She wanted me to come over.”
“Er, was this on the way?” I asked.
“No reason.” I nodded my head and felt the corner of my lips curl up.
“Well, last time I was late she was mad so I’m gonna go now. Bye!” Sledg gave me a brief hug and waved to An before taking off back to the carriage. This time he only stumbled and made it to the carriage without rolling. I realized there was a lack of excited An yelps and turned toward her. She was glaring at the carriage as it bumped along the dirt road. This time I couldn’t withhold my chuckle. It snapped An back to reality and she swiftly turned back to the grass.
Her being limited to brooding was an improvement over the last time Sylmin had hung out with Sledg. At least this time Sylmin wasn’t here for An to draw her energy and have the poor girl collapse an hour later.
I turned my attention back to the re-focused An and watched her continue to experiment with her newfound technique. No sooner had I done that when I heard Sledg’s carriage coming back down the path again. I wonder what silly detail he forgot to tell me this time.
Except, when I peeked over my shoulder, what I saw was not a colorful nobleman carriage but three completely black carriages, complete with accompanying police members.
“An,” I called over my shoulder. “Don’t use your power.” As far as I knew, the force didn’t know anything beyond Ace setting An up as the kingdom’s princess.
The carriages came to a halt and several officers per carriage poured out in an organized fashion. They were decked out in what looked to be the new fabric that Jaymes and I had recovered a bag of. They stalked toward An and me in a tight formation. Why were they approaching with their swords already out?
Oh, right. I was one-half of the outpost destroying duo.
“Why can’t I kill them?”
Because your powers are a secret, I thought to myself and An.
The officers gave each other quick glances as they approached slowly. I had the strongest urge to roll my eyes. This was overkill. I couldn’t take one of these guys without Sledg or a transfer from An.
“Jochro? You are hereby under arrest,” a tall officer stated. His voice briefly wavered.
I laughed. About every other officer began to change. Had I startled them with a laugh? I was actually beginning to enjoy how nervous I made them. That was until I was grabbed from behind by some furry hands the size of my head.
“Do not resist,” stated the same tall officer from before. “It will be easier this way for everyone.”
“What did I do?” I asked, feet dangling as I was held up. I sniffed. Maybe by a gorilla? I couldn’t tell, they all stank.
They didn’t answer. The gorilla holding me up walked forward, merging us into the formation as everyone marched toward the carriages. Still, no one took their eyes off me. And the ones that hadn’t changed had their swords out in front. I twisted my neck to see what was holding me. Yep, a gorilla. Even he looked hesitant, holding me far away from his body.
I couldn’t see An over the gorilla’s hulking mass. I’d have to hope she was listening out for my thoughts.
Just tell Ace. As soon as I sent that I felt a scalding energy flow below me. My head snapped down and I saw the tail end of a stream of dark energy dissipate and turn the grass an ash gray. The gorilla dropped me and faced An. With some effort, I picked my head out of the now grass-ash pile and opened my eyes. Dizzy and nauseous, I saw An shrug innocently. The company of officers seemed to buy it. Until they realized I was now free on the ground – definitely incapacitated and out of it – but free, nonetheless.
The gorilla scooped me up with one large hand and began half carrying, half dragging me to their carriages. I received wave after wave of grass and dirt filling my mouth, the large hand pounding me against the ground with every step. Needless to say, the wind was knocked out of me, too quick for my breathing to recover. I got quite familiar with the ground for the few remaining seconds of consciousness I had left.