“And you let him talk to you like that?”
The first thing Erin did the following day during lunch break was to tell Sarah everything that had happened during the week-end, both inside the forest and with her parents. Just as she’d expected, Sarah wasn’t exactly happy.
“I know, but what was I supposed to do? I’m the one who messed up in the first place,” Erin said.
They were sitting at their usual spot, a fairly isolated bench in the park next to the school. They could talk freely here while eating their lunch. It was getting cold outside, the wind blowing yellow and orange leaves out of the trees. They’d have to find a new location once winter truly settled in, but the park would do for the coming weeks.
“Erin, oh my god, nothing happened in the end. It sounds like you panicked because of him in the first place. If he’d given you appropriate training and didn’t just resort to screaming and insults when things didn’t go his way, none of this would have happened,” she retorted, pulling Erin in a side hug. “As for your parents, it all sounds super complicated. You think they’re going to do something?”
“I don’t know, we haven’t talked since. I didn’t see them this morning, not that it’s very unusual,” Erin replied, loosely returning the hug. “I’m worried they might try something more drastic, but I can’t imagine what that would be. I caught them off-guard, I don’t think I’ve ever been so mad at them before.”
“Why did you get so angry, by the way? Not that I disapprove or anything, but you’re right, it doesn’t really sound like something you would do,” Sarah asked.
“I just… Every time they said something to me I got more and more annoyed, and then it was just too much. I was tired, and angry, and then I was screaming,” she said, looking away.
“Yeah, I think you’ve got too much on your plate right now. I’m guessing you’ve already considered it, but isn’t there anyone else other than Becker that could teach you magic? That would solve one of your problems, at least.” Sarah questioned, breaking the hug while remaining close.
“I thought about it, but mages are really rare, the only other one I know is the old man that landed me in this situation in the first place” she answered, glancing down at her bracelet. “Other than that, most of them are probably super secretive anyway. I could walk around with my sight spell and try to find one, but I’d just be relying on pure luck, it’s not exactly a great plan.”
Sarah and Erin went quiet, both of them thinking and trying to come up with something. Unfortunately, they didn’t have many options. A few minutes later, Sarah perked up, breaking the silence.
“What about my powers? Sarah asked, turning to look at Erin.
“What about them?” she asked in turn, confused.
“Well, we don’t know what I can do, right? Becker said something about Seers, how they can learn stuff just by looking. Maybe I can help you!” she replied excitedly, a grin on her face.
“Yeah, we could try that. It can’t hurt to try, at the very least. Plus, I really want to help you figure out your powers anyway. You’ve done so much for me, sometimes it feels like I’m just unloading all my problems on you. It’d be nice to be useful for once,” Erin said wistfully.
“Okay, no thinking like that, Erin. This is a friendship, not a contest, and I promise you’re not a burden, so stop thinking about yourself like one,” Sarah replied somewhat sternly. “Also, that settles it. We’re having a sleepover,” she declared with finality.
“What? Where did that come from?” Erin asked, surprise plain on her face.
“Come on. You’ve been doing nothing but stressing and worrying ever since before we became friends, you need to relax. Plus, getting you away from your parents for a while wouldn’t hurt you. It’ll be fun!”
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Sarah said quickly, not letting Erin answer. “That’s it, you’ve agreed to it, no backsies now. Friday sounds good?”
“Great! I promise you’ll love it!” Sarah said, happily taking a chomp out of her sandwich.
Their conversation over, Sarah and Erin hashed out the details of their sleepover, and also decided on a few times they could go in the forest to try to unlock Sarah’s powers. Once they were done, their break was nearly over, and they quickly made their way back to school.
- - -
To say that Sarah was excited would be an understatement. Her conversation with Erin had revealed that she most likely had cool magical powers, and she couldn’t wait to try and see what she could actually do. She’d been wondering about her weird powers ever since she’d met Erin, and today they’d finally made some measure of progress towards figuring them out. She might be a Seer! It was all she could think of, and she was having a hard time following what her teacher was saying. French was already complicated enough when she was focused, let alone when she was this restless. The end of class couldn’t come soon enough.
Only adding to her excitement was the fact she’d managed to convince Erin to go inside the forest this afternoon, though that hadn’t been really difficult. She probably wasn’t very eager to go back home tonight, seeing her parents again was bound to be awkward.
When the bell finally rang, Sarah was practically vibrating on her chair from excitement, a fact that Erin – Or was it Ryan? Technically, she was Ryan right now, but that sounded wrong for some reason – picked up on. Together, they quickly made their way to Erin’s car and drove towards the edge of the forest.
“Just so you know, I’m not sure if we’ll do a lot of progress today. I still need to look Seers up and see if anything comes up,” Erin said, her eyes fixed on the road.
“That’s fine. Sorry if I pushed you too much, I just got really excited,” she replied bashfully.
“It’s fine, I know what it’s like. Figuring out your powers is always exciting,” Erin said, smiling.
A few minutes later, they were parking the car at the edge of the woodlands, and made their way inside. Erin seemed to be on her guard, looking around for any signs of creatures nearby, even though they weren’t planning to go really far inside.
“Alright, that spot looks good.” Erin said, transforming back into her female form.
“So…what should I do?” Sarah asked impatiently, almost bouncing in place.
“Calm down, I’m getting to it,” Erin giggled, “I guess I can describe what my magic feels like, so you know what to look for.” She paused for a few seconds, deep in thoughts, before resuming. “Okay, so for me, it feels like a warm ball of power that’s in the middle of my chest. If I concentrate, I can move it around a little bit, and even stretch it through parts of my body.”
“But how do I feel it?” Sarah asked, puzzled.
“That’s the difficult part, it’s been so long I don’t remember what it’s like to not feel it. It’s one of these things that’s really hard to put into words, but once you’ve figured it out it’s impossible to forget. Maybe try to meditate? I’ll see if I can’t come up with something else in the meantime.”
Pouting a bit, Sarah plopped herself down on the ground and closed her eyes, trying to relax. She’d already been picturing herself doing all sorts of cool magical stuff, but of course reality had to reassert itself and make magic difficult and boring.
- - -
After about an hour of boring meditation, Sarah decided she’d had enough. She didn’t feel anything! Erin had joined her at some point and was peacefully sitting down next to her. Sarah was almost insulted by the ease with which her usually skittish friend managed to appear so calm. Could Erin become any more confusing?
Groaning in frustration, she slowly stood up, working out the kinks in her back. Erin looked up, opening her eyes, and pulled herself up with a sigh.
“I take it it didn’t work?” Erin asked, already knowing the answer.
“No, I can’t feel anything! I just don’t understand what I’m supposed to be looking for,” she replied, sighing. “Let’s just go back home for now, it’s getting late anyway.”
“Alright. I’ll try to see if I can find anything online. Keep meditating when you have some time, I’m sure we’ll figure it out.”
“Thanks, Erin,” Sarah said, smiling gratefully.
- - -
Thankfully for Erin, the next few days were mostly uneventful. Despite all the difficulties she’d faced and the adjustments she’d had to make, she was starting to settle in her new routine. Although, calling it a routine might be a bit of a stretch, considering nothing about her situation was very stable, but still. It felt like she’d regained a semblant of control, and she was proud to say she’d greatly improved when it came to adapting to unexpected situations.
Erin’s parent didn’t seem to want to talk to her, which suited her just fine. It seemed as if they were pretending nothing had happened, once again being quiet and uninterested. Even if she didn’t mind, Erin still found her parents’ behavior to be odd, and so she made sure to remain vigilant.
Sarah kept trying to access her powers, sadly to no avail. The few times they went into the forest for her to practice bore no results aside from frustration. Erin had suggested she try to stare at her bracelet, to see if she could maybe unlock her powers that way, but that hadn’t worked. It was like Sarah knew what the bracelet was, but she couldn’t bring herself to do any more than that. She’d get that strange feeling in her head, the feeling of knowledge, but she couldn’t grasp it and gain control of it. She also couldn’t for the life of her find that “ball of power” Erin had described, which led both of them to believe Sarah’s power must have worked differently.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and Erin’s peaceful days were interrupted on Thursday afternoon.
- - -
Erin turned around, finding Becker looking at her. She’d been surprised to feel a spike of anger when he’d used that name, even though she was currently in her male form. Stuffing the books she’d just pulled out of her locker into her bag, she mentally prepared for the conversation that was about to occur.
“What do you want, Becker?” she asked tersely, slinging her backpack over her shoulder.
“We need to plan a new trip, we’ve talked about this,” he replied.
“Yes, I also recall you saying that I was useless. Which is it then, Becker?” She asked neutrally, still not looking at him.
It took a few seconds for the answer to come, and Erin really wished she would have seen his face. “This is serious, Ryan. If we don’t fix whatever is happening, magic might get discovered. We can’t risk that.”
“Magic might get discovered,” she echoed, anger spiking. “Is that your first concern, professor? Not that people could get hurt, but that they might find out about your secrets in the process? Leave me alone, Becker. Don’t talk to me again.” Erin said, walking away.
“If you’re so worried about the forest being a danger to others, why won’t you help me?” he asked, staying still.
Erin paused, before resuming her walking pace. She didn’t have an answer to that, but she would figure something out.
She had to.
PS: Here are a bunch of random facts about the story because the chapter was a tiny bit short and I don't need reasons.:
- In the first version of the story (AKA in my head) Sarah didn't really exist, and Erin was supposed to have her transformation fail in front of her entire class. I changed it when I started outlining the story because managing 20 characters at the same time would have been too difficult.
- The story was also an Isekai, believe it or not, where the whole class got displaced to another world. From there, Erin would have been able to find people who understood her better, both when it came to magic and gender identity.
- Erin got badly wounded protecting her classmates from the forest they got displaced in before they were all rescued by a group of locals.
- No Eriz Forest, so a big part of the plot of the story didn't exist. Whoops.
- Becker wasn't such a prick, he was merely the most neutral guy in the world. Erin helped him out of obligation, but he wasn't THAT secretive about stuff, and he also didn't manipulate Erin into helping him. Also, he was left behind during the Isekai, and thus wouldn't have had a big role beyond the first few chapters. Also, that Becker was very loosely based on a History teacher I had like 3 years ago. He was nice if a bit detached.