Mikari Yuki was, quite honestly, caught off guard by how fast Kendal could run now. In the mad dash through the island’s Student Shopping district towards their first destination, Mikari had stopped briefly to catch her breath no less than three times. Kendal had not shown even the slightest signs of being out of breath or slowing down.
If Mikari was sure of one thing, Kendal’s recently acquired case of Lycanthropy had done more than turn the girl into a fox.
A fox, even. A fox! How could a wolf-born Lycan’s blood cause someone to turn into a Fox? There must have been something else to the spell Hecate had provided that changed things beyond targeting the Pyromander magic that had been flowing through Kendal’s body before.
If Mikari were more of a mage, she probably would have insisted on using all sorts of magical tests to figure the riddle out. Or, maybe, if she were more of a mage, she might just simply know the answer. But as it stood, Mikari was not a mage and all she could really do was speculate the cause of the effect. An effect that was essentially letting Kendal have a seemingly endless supply of stamina.
And so, they reached their preshopping destination: the Lone Tree Beach, where Kendal settled down next to the single tree that marked the boarder between sand and soil and then began digging through the tree’s trunk as if it were made out of paper.
The Lone Tree of Lone Tree Beach was known for this property among a certain population of students. Like a certain journal with an endless number of pages that was rumored to teleport to whoever needed it most, the power of the tree was kept as a ‘secret’ from most people, even though the tree’s persistent presence across the island’s history meant that the only reason it was treated as a secret was because it was more fun to pretend it was something people weren’t supposed to know about.
Where and when Kendal had learned of this property of the tree, however, Mikari was not sure. But considering that Mikari had first learned of the tree from Ayako, who had no doubt learned it from Kana, it wouldn’t be too insane to think that Kendal had also learned of the tree’s powers from either one of them.
“Nope,” Kendal scowled as she drew out a gold embossed green hard cover book, sealed with two latches. “Not what I’m looking for.” She threw the book back into the tree and resumed her search.
“What are you looking for?” Mikari asked.
“Clothes,” Kendal replied honestly. “I asked Miri to hide a Lycan-fit dress in here for me while I was in the hospital. I had her put it with my secret cash box. You know, the one I hid from dad so he doesn’t know how much money I spent on buying clothes I’d burned up?” Mikari nodded at that. “Plus, That. I need that too. I can’t exactly go shopping without money, now can I?”
“Yeah,” Mikari nodded again. “Fair enough.”
The Tree’s history was also well known for being a sort of ‘trade drop box’ for some people. At one time, Mikari had found a note inside of the tree, of someone requesting some antique lunch box from ten years earlier. There were some people who saw fit to keep the tree stocked with certain necessities; the things that were most commonly needed by someone in a rush. Some of those things were almost certainly items that adults put there for any kid who ran into trouble.
“Ahha! Perfect!” Kendal pulled out a small box that had been wrapped up in a fancy party dress. She unwrapped the dress from the box and then held it up to compare. The dress seemed to be custom fit, and was of a pink/purple hybrid hue. It had a solid back save for the a single strap reaching across over the back of the hips to secure the open tail slot. As she put the dress on, Kendal commented, “Now that I won’t be burning my clothes off every time I get angry-” She paused to mutter something about those clothes supposedly being fireproof but not really living up to the claim. “I can actually build up a proper wardrobe!” After securing the last of the straps, Kendal reached into the locked box and pulled out a small card, printed with a “50% Off!” message on one side, along with a few rolled up stacks of bills. Once those were pocketed in the dress’ pockets, the box was shoved back into the tree, and Kendal beamed, “Right then! Let’s go!”
“Oh No,” Mikari barely had time to react before Kendal took off like a speeding bullet. ‘NOT AGAIN!!!’ And with a reluctant cry, Mikari took off after the speeding Were-Kitsune.
Miri Nori, finished with her visit with Tsukia, sat down at the same tree less than thirty minutes later. A silent check of the tree confirmed that, yes, Kendal had retrieved the sundress and other important things. Note the word “Silent,” in this case because Ranagi Kaie had insisted on following Miri once she’d come out of the Way-gate, with hopes of finding Kendal.
Neither of them were too worried, however, as Kaie had seen Mikari running with Kendal. And since Kendal had first run off with Lizzy, rather than running off alone, it seemed that at the very least she wanted company.
“At least she’s not running off alone like she used to,” Kaie sighed.
“At least there’s that,” Miri nodded. During Kendal’s three day stay in the hospital, Miri and Kendal had talked quite a few times. Kendal had confided that, yes, she’d always run off alone when angry, mainly to keep from hurting other people with her then-literally-explosive temper.
This seemed like a positive development, and Tony, who happened to wander by on his own way of getting used to the lay of the island’s streets, agreed on that line. “When we were working at the shrine, I saw some recent turns saying they were a lot happier now that they didn’t have a fatal illness hanging over their heads.” And then he seemed to be reminded of something, “Oh! By the way, this morning, Ayako suggested that maybe Miri and I help Kendal get used to transforming, once she got out.”
“Yeah,” Ranagi reluctantly nodded. “That’s probably for the best.
“Where is Ayako anyways?” Miri asked. “I haven’t seen her since this morning.”
“Mayoi took her and Obonz out on a case,” Ranagi answered. “Some diggers discovered a body in Tategami.”
“Does Ayako or Miss Mayoi have any family over there?” Tony asked.
“No. Not that I’m aware of, why?” Ranagi asked.
“Earlier today,” Tony began, “over the soul bond, it felt like Aya got upset by something family related.”
“Wait, you can feel emotions over a Soul Bond?” Ranagi asked. “I know you can share the same memories, but I’ve never heard of emotions traveling over a bond before.”
“Dunno,” Tony shrugged. “This is all still new to me, even if we’ve been bonded since before the cataclysm.”
“I’ve heard of it before,” Miri answered. “I… Did do some research on it a while ago,” it went without saying the why, “and it’s been theorized that if a bond was created while the two parties in question were hovering near death, then it’ll allow for some level of emotion sensing in future lives.” She smiled, “Obviously, a majority of people didn’t get their soul bonds forged on death’ door, so it’s not really that common to hear about it these days.”
“Huh,” Ranagi mused on that for a moment. “I guess that makes sense.”
“Death’s door, huh?” Tony mused on that for a moment, then said, “Yeah, that sounds about right.”
“Remember something?” Ranagi asked.
“Not really,” Tony shook his head. “It just… sounds like what happened, I guess.” Awkwardly, he then said his goodbyes and headed off on his way back to the Apartment Complex.
The Student Apartment Complex was practically located in between the two southern beaches on the island- the Lone Tree Beach, which he just left, was on the western side of the island, while the Seastone Beach was on the eastern side. The Apartment complex itself was slightly different from the more residential district on the north-eastern side of the island. Different, namely, in that the whole series of apartments were housed inside a giant, green-blue glass box.
Just looking in from the outside, nobody could really tell how the inside structure was composed. And inside? It was almost impossible to tell where one was. There were no real “Outside” windows at all- only simple magical portals that seemed to change locations along the outside facing wall in-between student terms.
If Tony were the kind of kid who mapped out things by pacing them- as some previous students had done many times over the countless years gone by- he would have discovered that the internal layout of the apartment complex never matched the outside square footage at all. In fact, it was constantly changing on the inside, but Tony was not that kind of kid, and so, as it was, all he knew was that he got a vaguely off-put sense of “where am I?” whenever he entered the building.
Once inside the main doors, there was a lobby, with elevators going to different floors. There were no stair-wells in this massive complex. It was common conjecture among the students living in the building that the different ‘floors’ were really just alternate dimensional copies of the same floor, repeated infinitely to house only as many students as were currently taking classes.
However, Tony Nori held no thoughts on this subject at all as he took the elevator to floor “Four,” and went to apartment number thirteen- the apartment Ayako had started living in at the start of her first year at Mystryal, and had kindly offered the living space inside to Tony and Miri.
Getting a ‘key’ had been a simple task, as it turned out. All one person seeking residence had to do was put their hand around the door knob’s exterior while the primary owner of the apartment held the doorknob’s interior handle, and said the simple words, “I, Owner Name Here, Grant Residential Access to Recipient Name Here.”
Fill in the blanks were required, however. Ayako had informed Tony that when she’d first gotten the apartment, its previous owner had jokingly said the entire phrase with the “Name Here” parts entirely intact, as an initiation prank. Ayako had sent a “Welcome to your first day on the Job!” doughnut basket as a return prank. Each and every single piece of confectionery had concealed a small pocket of ranch dip instead of the typical jelly fillings.
Just the thought of that made Tony mentally glance at the Soul Bond, and felt the emotions flowing through the connection. For the moment, Ayako felt… Content and Focused. She was working the case, no doubt. Still, he had to wonder what had set her off earlier. Whatever it was, he was sure she’d want some comfort food whenever she returned.
And what was more comforting than their favorite shared meal?
Once inside the apartment, Tony checked the fridge for supplies… “Aw, right.” And quickly realized that, yeah, three Lycans, one of whom was pregnant, living in the same apartment would naturally require a large stockpile of meat. Not a single shred of fresh cheese anywhere. “I guess I’ve got to go shopping then.”
Just shy of an hour after leaving the Lone Tree, Kendal returned, carrying several bags of clothing across each arm, and seemingly not strained by the effort at all.
Mikari, meanwhile, followed behind looking rather shocked.
“This isn’t even all of it,” Mikari muttered as she sat down next to a confused Miri. “We stopped back by her apartment to unload the first half of it.” Miri went to ask why they still had stuff then, when Mikari raised a finger and answered, “We went back out after that.”
Ranagi, on the other hand, just grimaced. “Let me guess, you put it on my tab?”
“Nope! I spent my own allowance money fair and square!” Kendal shook her head, looking rather happy with herself. “Also, aren’t you glad I saved you the trouble of going with me?”
“How much did you spend?” Ranagi dreaded the answer as his Daughter leaned in and whispered the grand total into his ear.
‘This is going to get loud, isn’t it?’ Miri’s ears twitched as she heard the number as well, and then watched as Ranagi Kaie gave the proper reaction:
“YOU SPENT HOW MUCH!!?”
“Dad!” Kendal squealed in protest. “It’s not THAT much!”
Mikari just hung her head low and muttered, “I don’t know why she insisted on buying three of everything.”
‘I probably have a good idea why,’ Miri thought to herself. For a girl who had spent most of her life literally burning her wardrobe to ash, Kendal probably had grown into the habit of buying multiple copies of things she liked, and even with Lycanthropy curing that ignition problem for the foreseeable future, it was still a habit that would probably take years to break.
“C’mmooooonnn!’ Kendal protested, ears drooping in annoyance. “At least I don’t have to keep buying new clothes now!”
“That still doesn’t excuse spending that much of your allowance money!” Ranagi’s face met both of his hand’s palms. “You might as well have just put it on the expenses card!”
“You mean the card you always complain about me using?!” Kendal protested. “I thought you’d be happy that I didn’t use it!”
“I’d be more happy if you’d told me you were going shopping first before running off!” Ranagi sighed in exasperation, “I thought we were past this now that you weren’t burning everything!”
“I wanted to stretch my legs, then I ran into Mikari and I thought that was a perfect time to do it!” Kendal countered in return. “Besides, I was with Lizzy the entire time until I ran into Mikari and-”
“Um- Kendal?” Miri interjected. “Where is Lizzy?”
Kendal paused as she thought back, mentally rewinding through every step taken during the day from that moment up until they parted ways with Lizzy. “Uh… Probably still back at the Way-gate, I think. Why?”
“It’s just that she was acting weird while we were at the hospital, and I’m a little worried, is all,” Miri frowned.
“She kept locking herself in her room…” Mikari frowned as well. “Did she say anything? Now I’m getting worried too.”
“I’m sure she’s fine,” Kendal waved it off, but frowned just the same. “Still…. Why don’t we go find her?”
Ranagi bit back a groan. “This is not how I wanted to spend my vacation time.”