Warning: This work has been rated 16+.
Asha was awakened to Yuni hurriedly shaking her. She cracked an eye open, groaning when she could barely see the sun peeking above the horizon. One lone songbird was chirping in the tree overhead. A pang of guilt seized her as she gazed up into the blackened branches. Sometimes she wondered if the price she paid for magic was too steep.
"The birds are barely up," Asha complained, sitting upright.
Yuni's face was stone: solemn and serious. "We must begin travel again," Yuni said. "Your town isn't going to be the last."
Clearing the murky waters of sleep from her mind, Asha nodded. "We need to warn other villages."
Yuni nodded and pulled Asha upright. "I have prepared everything. We are travel ready."
Asha didn't think that she could loathe walking more than she already did. It turned out that she was dead wrong.
At first, it was quiet between them. Not the festering sore it used to be, but friendlier; companionable. As they began to fall into a groove, the silence began to fill.
"Tell me about Yamuko," Asha requested one day.
There was a pause. "I do not want to speak on the matter," Yuni replied finally. "I do not want you to think differently of me."
"Why would I think differently of you, Yuni?" Asha asked.
Yuni turned to look at Asha. Her face was flushed with sunburn and shiny with sweat. "I grew up in a palace," she said in a measured tone. She gazed at Asha, and it seemed that she was begging her to understand what she meant. Asha wasn't sure that she did understand, but she dropped the matter anyway.
"Tell me about learning magic, Asha."
Asha chuckled. "You'll be in for a long ride."
"It is a long journey," Yuni retorted.
"I was perhaps three years old," Asha began, "and our mtuwachi, the village mage, was testing all of the children for magical ability. When it was my turn, he sat me down in a patch of grass and told me to focus. I managed to draw in the energy from the grass, but I also took the energy from one of the goats that wandered through the village. I was so scared when I felt all of that energy inside of me. Khari told me what to do, and I managed to release the energy."
Asha cried for hours after she realized that she had killed the goat. It took Khari weeks to convince her to try it again.
In the weeks after Khari had began training her, Asha was still wary of her newfound skill. Finally, Khari took her to the fields where the field workers were plowing. Khari had commanded her to turn over the soil in a tiny corner of the field. All of the people staring at her had made young Asha nervous, so Khari made them all leave for her.
Welling up all of the concentration she had, she sapped the energy from the grass and gathered it inside of herself. Giving the biggest push she could, she expelled the energy. Asha had opened her eyes to see the soil sifting itself before her very eyes.
Only then did she realize that magic didn't hurt people. It helped them.
"Khari was like a father to you, wasn't he?" Yuni mused, breaking Asha out of her reverie.
"He was," Asha answered
"Did you not know your true father?" Yuni asked.
"My parents died when I was very young. My aunt Ebele raised me until I became Khari's student. Then, I went to live with him. I hope-" Asha choked on a lump in her throat in the middle of her sentence.
"They will be well," Yuni soothed. "If they are anything like you, they are strong. They can survive until you can rescue them."
Asha nodded wordlessly, the lump blocking anything she could try to say.
Yuni gave Asha a big smile, her eyes crinkling and shining warmly. She turned away and impatiently scanned the horizon. "It has been two days already. Another village should not be that far away, correct?"
"I don't remember going away from home all that often," Asha admitted. "Sometimes Khari would leave, but he rarely took me along. I don't remember traveling that far when we did leave though."
Yuni nodded absently. For several minutes the only sounds were that of them wading through tall, dry grass. Then, Yuni finally snapped the silence like a broken violin string. "Look!" she cried. "I see a building."
Asha's eyes roved the horizon until she spotted a small black silhouette rising from the ground. "I see it," she replied. "I'm going to teleport there, hold my arm."
The moment Yuni's hand grasped her arm, she let her eyes close. She breathed in holding it as her chest began to feel full and thrum with energy. Yuni let out a choked breath as the grass around them began to blacken and die. Though Asha closed her eyes to perform the magic, she knew very well what was happening around her.
She breathed out.
Crrrack! The world distorted and weaved itself around them. As the sensation of movement began to wane, Asha and Yuni leaned on each other.
"You were right," Yuni mumbled. "One never does become used to this sensation."
Asha garbled out an affirmative response and wished her head would stop spinning.
Vertigo finally quelled, Asha opened her eyes, staggering a little as she stepped forward. Yuni's hand dropped from Asha's arm and they stood side by side. Shoulder to shoulder if they were the same height, but Yuni was nearly a head taller than Asha.
"Let's go," Asha said, frowning at the big black shadow the hut was creating by facing the setting sun. "I want to get there before dark."
Yuni nodded, and they walked forward in between the rows of grain and yams. Once they were out of the fields, the houses began to get closer together, and it became stranger and stranger that no one was out and about.
Asha and Yuni glanced at each other. "Hello?" Asha called in her native language.