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Elaine's Intro

by Dot Warner and Dare Cheung

Elaine's intro post. Hooray. (Co-written with Dare.) ---

     It was dark. And cold. And the journey had been long, very long. So far every other city that had caught her fancy--and even ones that hadn't--already had a resident Apprentice. She had already flown for a good part of the day, and then walked for another when her powers petered out. With her pocket money dangerously low, she had skimped on many of her meals, which was probably why she couldn't sustain long periods of flight any more.

     A mental sigh. /Am I a traveler or a refugee here?/

     She shifted her bag slightly to accomodate for its sagging weight. Her stomache rumbled. She sighed again, this time out loud.

     "I'm hungry..."

     /Papa said this would be a nice place to go.../

     Elaine smiled and adjusted her glasses so that they once again fit snugly against the bridge of her nose. "I like this city already."

     Elaine inhaled deeply and breathed in the rich smell of the roll before breaking it open and picking off a small piece. She chewed slowly, enjoying every mouthful as if it were her last, because she had just spent all she owned. Behind her, someone passed by, but Elaine didn't pay much attention.


     Elaine's head jerked up suddenly, blinking, but she saw no one save the flitting forms of some early morning shoppers. Shaking her head, Elaine went back to enjoying her meal.

     Despite every effort to make the meal as long as possible, the roll still disappeared much too quickly. Elaine wistfully looked at the tantalizing bakery display and wished that she had taken more spending money with her.

     'If I snuck in...' she shook her head. No. Even if she starved, she would not steal. She was raised better than that.

     Lyta took the rampant potato and regarded the small girl. She was staring intently at Lyta, her face so innocent and sweet. Lyta had gotten to the fact that she and her mother looked so much alike, so she smiled back and shook her head. "I'm sorry, but I'm not Lina Inverse." She patted the girl on her head. "Thanks for helping me anyway!"

     "W-wait!" the girl shouted after the leaving Lyta. "But you look so much like Lina Inverse!"

     Lyta rubbed her eyes a little. She didn't think her mother had many "adoring fans" considering the way she used to always make sure everyone knew who she was. (And how could you not know the name Lina Inverse, she mused. Her mother had only defeated the Demon King Shabranigdo, various other Mazoku overlords, and saved the world several times over.) Lyta turned around and smiled again. "Well, actually, she's my mother. My name is Lyta."

     The girl's eyes widened. "Lina Inverse is your mother? Wow, that's so neat! I didn't think I'd ever have the chance to met Lina Inverse! But this is just as cool! I'm sorry if I thought you were Lina-sama. You look just like her and your grocery cart made me think you were her."

     "Hey, what's that supposed mean?" Lyta somewhat snapped back with a twitching eyebrow. "Are you saying I'm old?!"

     Lyta blinked as the other shrinked back, realizing she had just scared the little girl. "Oh dear, I'm sorry! Please, I didn't mean to yell. Um.. what's your name?"

     The brief moment of fear disappeared from the girl's face as she saw Lyta become friendly once more. "My name is Elaine Veritas! I've been travelling all over looking for someone just like you!"

     "Huh? Just like me?"

     Elaine nodded. "Yes! I was hoping, that is, if it wasn't that much trouble, if I could study under you."

     "Study under me?"

     "Oh, yes! I would be eternally grateful if you let me become your apprentice, Lyta-sama!"

     Lyta blinked. Nobody she knew ever attached the "-sama" honorific to her name. Not even people who knew who her parents were. On top of that, somebody wanted to be her apprentice? She couldn't believe it. She didn't think her magic was as good as her mother's. She knew all the standard shamanist spells but nothing as spectacular as Dragon Slave or Ragna Blade.

     "Apprentice?" Lyta repeated. "Oh, I think you've got me mistaken! I'm not that good of a teacher. I've never done anything like this before. You might be better off looking for someone better."

     Elaine protested. "No way! You're the daughter of the famous Lina Inverse! You have to be good at magic! Please? I've been travelling from city to city, I've got no more money! I can't go home!" She was almost near to tears.

     Lyta knelt down so she was eye-level with the girl and took her shoulders. "Please don't cry! I'm really sorry about you having no money and travelling all this way but I don't know if I can be your teacher!" Lyta reached into her cloak and pulled out the leftover money she had from grocery shopping. It wasn't a lot, but it wasn't exactly pocket-change, either. She thrust it into Elaine's hand. "Here, please get something to eat."

     Lyta patted Elaine on the head once more and resumed taking her shopping cart back to the shrine.

     /No, it's probably because of me. She must of sensed me somehow.../

     The growing morning light somehow didn't seem as bright any more, and certainly not as warm. Elaine felt her legs lose strength, and she curled into herself as her grief consumed her entire being. Elaine sobbed quietly as the pedestrians walked by, pretending not to see her, wondering whose little girl was having a hissy fit this time.

     Lyta carefully pried Kokutan to a safer distance, namely, such that Kokutan was not clutching Lyta's arm. "Calm down and talk slower so I can understand you, Kokutan. What's going on?"

     Kokutan shuddered and took several deep breaths. "I stepped on..." she shuddered again. "Something _weird_ when I went into there." she pointed a clawed finger towards the room in question.

     Lyta suppressed a chuckle. "Couldn't you handle it, Kokutan?"

     Kokutan shook her head furiously. "You don't understand. I felt..." she made a face. "Ugh. I don't even want to _begin_ to describe what it was like."

     Lyta rolled her eyes, thankful that not even Kokutan's sharp eyes could catch that action in the dark. "Don't worry, let me handle this." Lyta brushed aside her cloak and headed to the house. Her thoughts were on the thing that had scared Kokutan. The fact that Kokutan looked on edge began to worry Lyta too. She wasn't sure about kitsune-demons but she always felt that Kokutan would be the territorial type. With the shrine being her home, Lyta didn't think Kokutan would suddenly run away from potential intruders. Whatever it was that spooked her could certainly be dangerous.

     Lyta wondered where Ahlen was. He was probably still outside checking the windows and generally casing the structures. He spoke of jobs that needed to be done while the weather was still good. They included things like insulating the windows, checking for cracks, looking over the roofing. Lyta wasn't a stranger to these maintenance jobs. Cracks and roofing problems were always an issue. Glass windows, however, weren't very common where she came from. Windows were covered with linen in the summer time and boarded up in the winter at nights.

     The laundry room was near the side of the house on a split level between the ground floor and the basement. A side door conveniently gave access to the small yard in the back where a clotheline and hangers were located. Lyta spied the two large boxes. One washed the clothes, the other one dried them. Ahlen said they were called a washer and dryer for lack of any better names. She used to wonder what sort of shamanist spells were running them.

     A large pile of clothes lay in the corner near the wash sink. Kokutan was shirking behind Lyta's back as they stood by the door, peering over her shoulder. "Don't crowd me," Lyta grumbled to the fox-demon. Kokutan backed off obligingly.

     "I think it's under the pile of clothes," Kokutan said tenatively. "I can feel its presence." She shivered audibly.

     Lyta decided to play it safe. Kokutan was uneasy and that was a good indication that Lyta should be too. She palmed a small fireball in her hand just in case. The light from the flames flickered shadows along the small room walls. Lyta stepped closer to the pile of clothes and pushed the top layers off.




     Lyta jumped back when a little girl emerged from underneath the clothes.

     Kokutan just shrieked for no good reason. The little girl was obviously frightened at seeing Lyta with spell in hand.

     Lyta turned off the magic tap and the fireball went away. She turned on the light and recognized the little girl instantly. It was Elaine.

     "What are you doing here?" Lyta asked in a soft but somewhat stern voice. She didn't want to upset the girl.

     "I'm sorry," sniffled Elaine, who clearly been crying, "I just sort of ended up here while I was wandering around. When I saw you come out of the house, I didn't know what to do so I hid in the room."

     "Who is this girl?!" Kokutan demanded. Her tail was moving around on its own, displaying her still uneasiness.

     "This is Elaine, a little girl I met this morning grocery shopping," Lyta introduced.

     The little girl beamed. It was amazing how fast her expression had changed from fear to shame to joy.

     Kokutan edged closer so that she could whisper into Lyta's ear. "Are you sure she's a little girl?"

     Lyta stepped back and gave her an admonished look. "What is wrong with you, Kokutan?"

     Kokutan threw her arms in the air. "I don't know but I get willies when she looks at me like that!" She turned to Elaine. "There! She's doing it!"

     Lyta turned back to the little girl who was staring curiously at both of them. Lyta buried her face in one palm. "Please don't do that, whatever it is you're doing, Elaine."

     "Doing what, Lyta-sama?"

     "And you don't have to call me, 'Lyta-sama'," Lyta continued.

     Elaine gave the most innocent and unsuspecting look. "But I have to give proper respect to my teachers."

     "She's your student?" Kokutan pointed to the girl. She threw her arms up again. "I have no idea what's going on but I'm going out. Tell me what happens in the morning."

     The house door opened and Ahlen came through. He was wearing a t- shirt and trackpants but there was a concerned look on his face. "What's going on?" he asked. "I heard screaming." His eyes turned to Elaine. "Who's this?"

     Elaine turned around and introduced herself. "My name is Elaine Veritas. I'm Lyta-sama's new student."

     Ahlen passed his gaze from the girl to his beloved, back to the girl and back to Lyta. "So you're taking up apprentices now?"

     "No, wait, I never said anything!" interjected Lyta. Suddenly she felt like everything was out of her control. "I didn't say I would be your teacher Elaine! I'm not good at teaching!"

     "Please, Lyta-sama?" Elaine turned on every little trick a child knew about coaxing elders. "I'll be a very good student and I can help clean up the place. Please? I've got no where to go, you don't understand, I can't go home!" Tears were starting to flow down her cheeks that only added more effect to her sweet voice. "Please?"

     "Oh, alright!" Lyta gave up and slumped to the ground. "You can stay."

     "Yatta!" Elaine shrieked and ran over to give the sorceress the biggest hug she could.

     "You what?!" shouted an outraged Kokutan. "She can? Hey, where did the broom come from?" Her keen eyes noticed a blue pushbroom on the wall that didn't belong to them. She rubbed her temples. "Okay, I'm really going out now before my head EXPLODES!!"

     Elaine continued glomping Lyta tightly. Lyta screwed her eyes up in a way that Ahlen clearly understood to mean, 'I have no idea who she is!' Ahlen smirked and leaned against the doorframe. "Let's try not to make a habit of bringing strays home, kay?"

     Lyta glared back, not finding any humor in Ahlen's jest. She pulled a reluctant Elaine from her body, got up and sighed. "Let's find a place for you to sleep."

     Elaine skipped happily alongside Lyta as she lead her back to the shrine. It was the only place that had extra rooms. Kokutan was about to get a new housemate, and if the recent night's events were any indication, she wasn't going to like it one bit.

     "Lyta-sama?" Elaine piped up again.

     "Yes, Elaine?"

     "Can you teach me 'dragon slave'?"

     Lyta stumbled. Mysteriously, it felt as if the shrine had just gotten a little more crowded. And a lot more complicated.

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