Any plan that requires excessive waiting is excruciating to carry out, at least in my experience. Maybe that was just because of the fact that I was an impatient little shit, but that’s besides the point.
Then there was the fact that in Pellan time went slower and I was waiting for things to happen on earth, so it was like… a super long wait.
Still, at least we had like seventy people on the hill now. A barracks had been set up, along with a storehouse on raised stilts for food and a few other little essential buildings. Mostly it was all hands on deck with the wall though. The wall was the most important thing for our town right now. We really needed its protection.
The wall itself was making slow but steady progress. The ditch was surprisingly easy to dig when you had a whole bunch of people with magical powers designed primarily for destruction. There were a million different ways to explode an area of dirt after all.
The hard part was turning out to be exploding the stone over at the quarry in such a way that it came out in square chunks. I left that to the professionals and did my own thing.
That own thing was patrolling the forest in search of enemies, since I was very fast with my light-skates when I needed to be. I’d been working on getting my mana and mana regeneration higher so I could stay in the air longer, and I was now up to a total of twenty two minutes of straight line skating. More if I was going downhill, less if I did more climbing.
The fun thing was when I unlocked the ability to turn the light skates into blades. I was going to be the most radical healer on Pellan. At least, that’s how my dad would describe me. Goddess he was old.
I was actually having a lot of fun skating through the trees, weaving and dipping like I was on Endor and I had scout troopers on my tail.
With a flourish, I zipped past a tree and put myself into a horizontal spin, slicing a deep gouge into its trunk. Wood chips and bark exploded out in a cone, but it all missed me because I was long gone already. I was like, a sky fairy girl with the zoomies! Nyoooooom!
My next target I went for a tree branch rather than the whole tree, managing to slice it clean off. I pulled into a tight corner to watch as it tumbled several feet down to the forest floor and giggled wildly. This was so fun! Was I actually doing my job of keeping a lookout for enemies? No, but I was playing what was supposed to be a game, dang it! I’d have fun regardless of what my job was.
It was actually my fooling around that caused me to do my job properly. As the branch hit the ground, a figure was startled out from behind a bush. They planted themselves in a spell-throwing stance, arms raised and afire, ready for an attack that didn’t come.
Jeremy. Jeremy was down there as his Pellan alter-ego, Colourless.
What did I do? Did I just run away, tell the others what I'd seen? Did I risk talking to him? Would he try to hurt me?
The decision was taken out of my hands when he did the unexpected. He looked up.
We locked eyes over the intervening forty or so meters, each of us as surprised as the other. Slowly, I allowed myself to descend until I touched down onto the soft loam of the forest floor with a sliding jump.
“Why are you sneaking around in the woods?” I asked, all too aware of how small and scared my voice sounded. Got to love anxiety.
He opened his mouth to reply, then cringed in on himself and paused. “I… don’t really have anywhere else to be.”
“Not going off to find your friends?” He seemed even more beaten down and defeated than when I’d seen him arguing with Juliet.
He barked out a bitter laugh. “What friends?”
Phew. Okay. “I guess schmoozing with Juliet went well… wait, does she even play Pellan?”
The sound of wind playing through the canopy above was the only sound between us for several seconds. His face flashed through a whole range of emotions before it settled on anger.
“Fuck you,” he spat, gesturing wildly for emphasis.
I gave a sigh, more exasperation than anything else. He’d been the one to pull something stupid. Hadn’t even apologised for it yet. “I told you no once already.”
“You’re so fucking funny,” he said, trying to sneer but it didn’t look like his heart was in it. “Yes, she plays Pellan, she told me to meet her here in a few days but… we had a falling out.”
“Yeah, I kinda heard it,” I nodded, turning my eyes down to the forest floor. I kicked at a twig and shuffled awkwardly. Despite the fact that I was angry at him, we’d been friends for so long… “Thanks for not giving up my secret, I guess.”
“Take that thanks and shove it—“ he began, anger burning in his eyes. It fizzled though, and he snapped his jaw shut like an iron trap.
We stood there in the echo of his words, each unsure how to proceed. Should I just leave? Should I message the others and ask for help? Did he deserve a chance to redeem himself?
We’d both spoken at the same time, and a flicker of a smile graced both our lips.
“You go first,” I gestured, trying not to get distracted with a sudden onset of wow my hands are small and cute. Crazy when and where the gender euphoria strikes you.
“I was gonna say… I don’t understand a lot of shit, I don’t…” he trailed off, frowning and shaking his head. “No… I mean, I’m stupid. I’m just stupid and I… I guess I thought there was some way to make you—“
I winced. “No more chance than me making you, well, suck my dick when I had one.”
My words caught him off guard and he let out a laughing snort. “Yeah. That. Although I think neither of us would have enjoyed that.”
“Yuuuup,” I nodded, eyes flaring wide for emphasis. I was cringing just thinking about it. Don’t let it form an image in your mind Syl, don’t let it… ah shit.
“I’m trying to say that I’m… I don’t… I mean… god fucking damn it, it’s so hard to explain what was going through my head, I just… yeah,” he said, hands falling to his sides as he gave up.
I let him have a smile, although it was sort of apologetic. “It’s called testosterone buddy. Trust me, I know, I used to have to deal with it too. That one track mind is so real when there’s a pretty uh… person. Add onto that a little bit of heartache… I guess it’s a recipe for a very unique brand of stupid.”
“Hey, don’t get all man-hating lesbian on me,” he frowned. “Girls do stupid shit—“
“Oh my god!” I exclaimed, throwing my hands in the air. Why. Why were guys... I don’t even know how to finish that sentence, just why.
At least this time he appeared to realise what he was doing and shut up. It was an improvement over how he usually was. Now that I was thinking about it, I vaguely remembered him and Greg getting all dick measuring contest a few years ago, over Dana. At least, I think so… my memories of the before times were spotty.
“Look,” I sighed, rubbing at my eyes. “Look… I know that girls can be stupid too, I understand that. What I’m saying is that the kind of stupid you pulled is very much a guy thing. If the genders were reversed it would be some other brand of stupid… but that’s not the point! The point is that I get it. I get the mindstate that led to your dumbassery. I still didn’t appreciate it, definitely didn’t enjoy it… but I understand it.”
“Oh, okay,” he blinked, obviously not expecting that answer from me.
I nodded, feeling sort of empty after getting that thought process into words. “Yeah…”
“Uh… so…” he said awkwardly, waving a hand around in the process.
“You’re sorry?” I prompted, doing my best not to grind my teeth as a weird mix of relief and frustration warred for dominance in my head.
He went all bobblehead, nodding vigorously, “Right, yeah.”
“So say it, dumbass,” I said, taking the edge off my insult with a giggle that rose up. “Without any dumb qualifiers and with an acknowledgement of what you did that was shitty.”
“Would you like fries with that?” he quipped, then cringed in on himself as he realised he’d just made a joke out of my request.
“No fries, thanks,” I sniped sarcastically.
“God, I’m stupid,” he said, shaking his head in self depreciating amusement. “Okay, I’m sorry that I tried to make you date me. Especially because you’re not even single, but I should have taken no for an answer too.”
Closing my eyes as he spoke, I felt a wave of emotion roll over me. It was raw relief and a sort of easing of tension, sprinkled with a teeny tiny bit of sadness. Sadness that all of this stress had to happen, but there was also an echo of my previous and very confusing crush on him. I guess my sexuality was going to continue to remain strange and opaque to me. Why couldn’t shit ever be simple?
Why couldn’t I just like girls or guys or both and be chill about it? Why did my eyes have to follow pretty girls the way they did, drinking in every gorgeous and soft curve… and then every third blue moon, a dude’s grin would cause something in my chest to hiccup.
Looking at Jeremy now, I felt nothing but platonic affection for him. Same with Liam, and Greg too. Looking at literally any of the girls around and there was something there… except sometimes a guy would stretch or move in a certain way... Maybe that was it? I was attracted to femininity, in all its various forms, and every now and then, a guy would do something that crossed that boundary.
Whatever, it honestly didn’t matter right now. Right now, I had to figure out how to explain to everyone else that I didn’t hate Jeremy anymore… easy, right?