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A Day Off

a story by Xandé

I was sitting on the bed, looking out of the window, and trying to figure out what I wanted to do.

I know that isn't really anything interesting in and of itself, but before this, I had been celebrating the fact that I had finally gotten a day off, getting so engaged in my reveling, that I wasn't looking where I was celebrating and tripped over a chair to flop rather unceremoniously on the ground.

So I decided to play it safer and sit on the bed and ignore the pain in my leg until it went away..

I had been polishing the grill at one of our low points of the morning, when I heard Pixel's footsteps behind me. "Hey Iahfis," she said. "you've got the rest of the day off.".

I looked up from one particulary stubborn spot at the words 'rest of the day off'. I met her statement with a startled "Really? Why?", to which she responded with a shrug as she turned and walked away, saying, "I'm feeling generous."

Personally, I doubted it. To me, it smelled like a scheme was brewing, and after witnessing some of her "pranks", not to mention the ones co-engineered by Belinda (when she would deign to interact with her "lessers"), I decided that I didn't want to be around for this one. So I changed into more comfortable clothes, passed by Pixel to let her know that I was leaving, and headed out the door after wading through the ambient pinkness that Ambrosia's had recently been re-decorated into.

I'm not fond of the new change. It made me feel like I was living in a shoujo manga. I was waiting for Pixel to create new drinks with names beginning with "Precious", "Fluffy", "Tasty", and other girlish words like that.. I could understand trying to draw in a younger crowd, but the current arrangement was going a bit too far for me.

Shaking my head, at a brief daydream of some sort of beverage called "Fru-Fru" I stepped out into the sunshine, looked around, and picked a direction at random.

I should note that, if it seems that I was acting different, well.. I'm a _very_ paranoid person. The events leading up to my arrival here weren't momentous, didn't have the potential to change the world (I think), and terrified me so much, simply because I still couldn't understand what had happened. All I remember is going to the party, drinking some very good punch (which probably could have started a car, now that I think about it), and then everything else was a blur, with an infectious rhythm that made me want to chant. Next thing I know, I'm free-falling in what seemed like every direction at once, only to hit a wall and (for lack of a better description), have it "pass me" into Capow.

If traveling down what seemed to be an interdimensional digestive tract doesn't make you doubt your position in the world, then you're just lying to yourself. What you'd have done to your clothing would have betrayed you anyway.

I mused a little longer, then remembering that I was headed nowhere in particular, I decided to look around to see where I was. Focusing on my surroundings, I found that my walk had taken me into St. John's park. I shrugged and continued at a casual stroll, reminding myself I still had the rest of the day (and night) off.

I don't get out much. I'll admit it, and it probably was apparent in the way that I was looking at everything like I hadn't seen it before (okay, so I hadn't, your point?). There was someone over by the fountain, teaching what looked to be martial arts to four or five kids as people stopped to watch for a few moments before continuing on with whatever it was they were doing. While I was watching, the instructor (who looked younger than me) looked up and gave me a friendly nod that I returned before going back to teaching his class.

Ah, well. I continued my wandering, feeling revived as the breeze rustled in the leaves while the sun shone down from a sky decorated with puffy white clouds as if giving an invitation to go on a picnic.

Would that I had anyone to picnic with...

I paused in my walk and pushed that dark thought out of my head for the time being, figuring that it was best for a rainy day alone in my room. Well, if I wasn't working, that is.. But anyway, to quote Pixel, "Live in the moment, ne?" complete with cheerful smile and dimples. I laughed at myself, brushed my hair out of my eyes as I looked up at the sky again, and noticed the arch to the shrine that was said to be located in the park.

'Well, why not?' was my thought even as I passed through the archway, purpose in my steps as I finally had something to do since I left Ambrosia's.

"Neeee, Lyta-sama, are you going to start teaching me now?"

Elaine stood in the middle of the courtyard to the shrine, no small amount of hope shining in her eyes as she pushed her glasses up on her nose and looked up at her sensei excitedly.

Ahlen chuckled in amusement at the antics of Elanie as she bounced around Lyta. He stopped his sweeping as he leaned on the broom he was using and with a grin, called out, "Hey 'sensei', you shouldn't keep your students waiting!"

Lyta dignified that comment with a mock narrowing of her eyes and a tongue out to the commenter. She turned back to Elaine, thinking to herself once again that things had definitely got a good deal more complicated recently. "Hai, 'Laine-chan." she said.

That response was met with a squeal of excitement that Elaine cut off when Lyta fixed her with a stern look. "Gomen, Lyta-sama." she said, attempting to look serious. She almost suceeded, but couldn't quite stop from bouncing

Lyta shook her head and laughed. It was hard not to be swayed by someone who looked up to you, especially someone who quite nearly hung on your every word.

"Okay," she began, "the first and most important part of magic is your focus..."

I reached the top of the steps to the shrine proper and looked around. The entire area looked very clean, while a teenager seemed to be lecturing her little cousin on something, punctuating her lecture with gestures. I managed to make out what she was saying as I moved into the shrine's courtyard.

"..remember Elaine," the teenager was saying while pointing to a small block of wood between a short distance away. "Make sure that you focus clearly on it, because the more you focus, the better your results will be."

"Hai, Lyta-sensei!" her cousin- no, student responded with a cheery smile and a nod. She pushed her glasses up, held out her hands together as if presenting something, closed her eyes, and began to recite something, which was inaudible at where I was standing.

As I was watching, a little spark of light appeared hovering over her hands, and it began to pulse regularly. 'Magic then,' I thought to myself as I looked at the little mage-in-training to find her standing absolutely still, the only sign that she wasn't a statue was her rapidly moving mouth and the constant pulsing of the spark above her hands. I doubted that I'd be able to understand what she was saying, even if I could hear her.

The tone of her voice rose and her recital speed increased, so I figured she was about to produce whatever effect that she was hoping for. Sure enough, with a sharp command note in her voice (I still couldn't make out a word though), her eyes snapped open while she spread her hands. The little spark shone like a starburst and disappeared, only to be replaced with.. nothing. I looked around, for the results of the spell, wondering what the result was, when I was zapped by something that felt like static electricity. I yelped, more startled than hurt, and looked around, trying to figure out what it was that had shocked me.

I heard a giggle from where the two were standing, and then, "--you'd better go apologize to him."

I looked in that direction and saw the little mage-in-training approaching me. She stood directly in front of me, pushed up her glasses, and after composing herself, looked apologetically at me, saying, "I'm very sorry for shocking you, mister."

I studied her for a moment, trying to give the impression of "stern adult",but I was so impressed that I couldn't help but smile. I tried to fight it, but I guess it showed in my eyes, because as I looked at her, she started to smile as well, then said with a giggle and an innocent look, "Um, mister? Are you ok? ..Your hair is sticking out everywhere."

That did it. I couldn't fake it anymore. She was just too cute. I broke out into a full grin as I tried to smooth it back down while I said, "I'm fine, don't worry about it.. Hi, name's Iahfis, what's yours?"

"Elaine." She giggled at my repeated failed attempts to put my hair down.

I sat on my heels resting one arm on my thigh as I ran the other hand through my uncooperative hair, a little under eye level with her. "I take it that you're learning magic, huh?" I asked.

That broke the dam. "Yup!" she nodded excitedly, "Lyta-sama said she'd teach me! She's the greatest! Why don't you come over and meet her!?"

Without even waiting for my response, she grabbed my wrist and practically hauled me over to her instructor, a proud look on her face as she said, "Lyta-sama, this is Iahfis-san. Iahfis-san, this is my sensei, Lyta-sama."

"Nice to meet you, Lyta.. -sama?" I raised both eyebrows at the rather grand honorific.

Lyta smiled resignedly as she graciously accepted the acknowledgement, and told me, "Just Lyta-san if you please" She spared a dubious look to my current hairstyle that Elaine was still giggling slightly over, and replied, "Nice to meet you as well." She extended her hand and as I took it, all the static electricity jumped from me to her with a loud *SNAP*.

"Yipe!" she snatched her hand back quickly, then looked at Elaine and I curiously. "Why are you two grinning like that?" she asked.

I looked at Elaine, who looked at me, and at the sight of each other's faces, we broke out into laughter, unable to contain it any longer. It was Elaine who said between smothered giggles, "Lyta-sama, your hair!"

Her ponytail had puffed up, making the back of her head look like one of those seeds that go flying by in the fall, except hers was orange. I tried to stop laughing but Elaine was contagious. After a few seconds, Lyta joined in as well, after pulling out a mirror and examining herself in it.

After calming herself down, she made one last attempt to smooth her hair down, to no avail, and then gave up. "Welcome to the Shin Muchitsujo Shrine," she said to me. "What brings you here?"

"Just wandering," I replied. "I couldn't help but notice that you seemed to be teaching her magic.."

At her nod, I continued. "..Well, I was wondering if I may sit in and listen, as I myself use magic, but I seem to have hit a block."

She glanced questioningly at Elaine, who responded with an enthusiastic "Hai Hai! Onegai, Lyta-sama?"

Lyta just smiled and gave in with a sigh, adding, "It just might do all of us some good, why not?"

So I settled myself, and vowed to to my best to listen to all she had to say.

I left the shrine a little later that afternoon, with directions to Washuu's Used Bookstore, and a feeling that this day was the best day off that I'd had in a long while.

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