Chapter 6:

Fairy Interesting Times

Emiko Alone

Isla yelped in terror as Atsui brought her eye close to observe her. Flying out of Atsui’s reach, Isla hid in Emiko’s hair. “G-good tiger!” she exclaimed placatingly.

Emiko blinked and rubbed her eyes as her lips twitched. With her voice still sore and overused, she whispered, “That’s… Atsui, and… I’m Emiko.”

“Nice to meet you!” The fairy bowed in the air and went back to hiding. Her voice was muffled when she proceeded to say, “You have a very loyal familiar. Surprisingly so.”

“Hm?” Emiko frowned lightly at the strange thought. She reached into her hair and pulled Isla out. “What do… you mean by ‘familiar’? Terra… mentioned it too… Is it like… in the fairy tales?”

Isla harrumphed and crossed her arms. “Well, I do not know about any fairies having tails, but a familiar is a creature you have forged a bond with.” She leaned into Emiko’s face, and Emiko flinched, trying to lean away. “Should you not know that? I thought it was common knowledge in this world.” Hearing a low rumble come from Atsui, Isla yelped.

“I-I… sorry,” Emiko mumbled. Trying her best to recompose herself, she took a deep breath. “Familiars… never existed… before Kodoku.”

“They did not?” Isla tapped her chin as she floated back into full view. “That is odd. I could have sworn…”

Emiko shook her head. “They’re… only real in… stories.”

Blinking, Isla pointed at herself and said, “Would that mean I am not real either?”

The fairy questioning herself squeaked as Emiko poked her. “You seem… very real.” She turned towards the shrine that now stood still, the only beings still in the clearing gathered around her. “I… don’t know how… much time has passed… but it’s all… very real.”

“Good.” Isla nodded. “You are acquainted with your reality. That is important.” She floated to a stop above Atsui and stood on the tigress’ head. “We will need a level head when moving forward, for I must watch over your safety and instruction on this journey, as directed by Terra and the Greater Spirits.” Another growl reminded Isla of just where she was standing, and she shot into the air. “Preferably before I get eaten!”

“But… I don’t know where… I’ll be going,” Emiko said. “I only stumbled here on accident. And getting attacked… I don’t want that to happen again. But I… I want to know why… this happened.”

“A worthy reason,” Isla said, “But you are correct in that you do not know where you need to go. That is why I am here.” She twirled in the air and put a hand on her chest, puffing herself up. “I will be your guide to the Transient Valley.”

“The ‘Transient Valley’?” Emiko asked. “There’s no valley like that around here.”

With a shake of her head, Isla sighed. “I forgot. We fairies have different naming conventions because of how we see the world. What you may know as one valley, may be named as something else in the tongue of fairies.” She rose into the air and closed her eyes, facing one direction in particular. “Westward and south of here, the Transient Valley, or Valley of Change, is where you shall find your answers.”

“…The Valley of Change,” Emiko murmured. She looked up at the fairy with a twinge of hope. “And I’ll… find what I’m looking for there?”

“It is possible,” Isla said. Emiko felt her flicker of hope nearly die. Isla noticed her sag and moved close to rest on Emiko’s shoulder.“There is no guarantee. As fairies, we cannot directly interfere with the affairs of mortals. We are bound to let you do as you please, and give what we can to direct you, but ultimately it is up to you to decide your fate.” Isla sighed. “The most I can do is advise and warn you. Please do not take my inability to answer with surety as an insult.”

Emiko laughed bitterly. “Fate… has taken the only good in this world away from me.” She stared at her trembling hands and clenched them tightly. Atsui whined beside her, and she closed her eyes. “Insult or not, it hurts.”

“And that is what makes you uniquely capable,” Isla said. “You have lost everything. But you have everything to gain from it.” She floated into the air again and turned to face Emiko eye-to-eye. This is the first time you are really living your life. Will you also be the last to do so in a broken world?”

Emiko widened her eyes as Isla’s words registered. “The first to live… in a broken world.” She looked up at the fairy and pursed her lips. “Why me?”

“Why is it ever anyone?” Isla asked. “Why can’t things resolve themselves?” She waved a hand before crossing her arms and shaking her head. “It does not make sense. Things do not sort themselves out. There is always a drive, a purpose, or an instinct. It could have been anyone else. Why you?” Isla shrugged. “I cannot say.” She looks back to Emiko and holds a finger up. “But you are the one who remains. The only human left. So…” She raised an eyebrow. “What will you do?”

“I…” Emiko breathed in deeply and sighed. “I want— No, I need to know.” She then looked up at the fairy with a determined gaze. “I will go. I’m not the smartest… and I’m definitely not the best… but I have to… for everyone… for my brother…”

Isla smiled softly. She rose into the air, and Emiko and Atsui rose to their feet. “Then it is decided. Our quest is to obtain for the the Transient Valley and seek the answers that lie therein. So it is said!” Her very being shone with light for just a moment, enough to blind both human and companion, before it dulled back. “I have bound myself to you, and by so doing, have granted you some level of affinity to my element: Light.” She smiled. “I will instruct you generally on how to command this world’s magic. The rest is up to you.”

“Magic…” Emiko breathed. “I can’t believe it…” She swayed on her feet and rested on Atsui. “I’m going to learn magic, Atsui… that’s crazy.”

Atsui meowed in response, but she continued to eye the fairy cautiously. “I… think we can trust her, Atsui,” Emiko tried. “She’s here to help and guide us.” Atsui gave a low rumble in response, signalling her issues with the idea but still allowing of the situation. Emiko turned back to Isla and smiled tightly. “Please take care of us.”

“You can count on me!”

~ ~ ~[]~ ~ ~

They embarked after that. Upon returning to the road and obtaining Emiko’s wagon, they continued to follow it as it moved in the same direction they needed to go. The pavement was cracking and some places completely upheaved as they moved further and further away from the city. All the while, Emiko tried her best to keep up with Isla in more ways than one.

“Haaaaaah…” Emiko huffed as she rested her hands on her knees. “Isla… not everyone… can fly…” Atsui, now in kitten form, meowed loudly in agreement. Realizing her folly, Isla eeped and hid within Emiko’s hair. Atsui hissed at the action, and Emiko could almost hear the warning Atsui was giving as the kitten began to growl.

“I am sorry!” Isla’s voice cried. “I am not used to traveling with land-based creatures!”

Something about that sentence crossed Emiko as strange, and she commented on it. “Do you… does that mean… that you’ve traveled with others before?”

Isla poked her head out of Emiko’s hair and rubbed the back of her head. “Well, yes. We had to escort a flock of gryphons once, in another world. We also had to travel with a pack of wyverns when their nesting site was destroyed and we had to find a place to relocate them.”

“Gryphons… wyverns?!” Emiko muttered with a shiver. “Are you saying dragons are real now too?”

“Oh, no,” Isla said. Emiko sighed in relief while Isla floated out beside her. Isla, however, continued saying, “Wyverns aren’t dragons, not really. Dragons, with a capital ‘D,’ are the vanguards of the world lines, and you don’t meet one every day.”

Emiko paled. “What?”

“Dragons are not to be trifled with,” Isla explained. “Their power is immense due to their nature as protectors. While it is true their children are very selfish and destructive in nature, they themselves keep their distance from most races, so as not to interfere. Just one Dragon is enough to endanger a world.”

Dragons are that powerful?! Emiko thought. I’m glad I haven’t seen one yet… but it still feels so familiar. Like I’m missing something. Her thoughts turned to an old anime her brother used to watch. It had something to do with seven orbs that, once gathered, granted a single wish. Having regained her breath, Emiko started moving forward before coking her head to the side. “Isla…”


“Are Dragons… capable of granting wishes?”

“I would think so, yes,” Isla said. “It is said that there is nothing without reach of a true Dragon. It is well within reason for a wish to be granted by one such being, though I would assume it is a once-in-a-generation event.” She nods thoughtfully. “Indeed, it is not often at all for such a thing to occur.”

Gulping, Emiko kept her gaze forward. She tried her best to keep her pace even and steady. “So, what do you think would happen if you were to meet a Dragon?”

“Oh, I would probably die.”

Emiko felt sweat break on her forehead and she swung her head to stare at Isla. “Huh?!”

Isla laughed nervously. “Yes, I would not be able to survive in a true Dragon’s presence. It is not within the rights of a fairy to approach a Dragon. To endure the presence of a Dragon is worthiness enough to speak with one.”

“To endure…” Emiko frowned. “Wouldn’t… wouldn’t that mean it’s basically… impossible to speak with one?” She looked at the greying skies and pursed her lips. “How would you even be able to know?”

“Usually, it is the Dragon that approaches you,” Isla explained. “At least, that is what is recorded. We do not know of any living being currently to have had interaction with a true Dragon, and lived.” She looked around at the decaying road and the lone human that trudged alongside her. “Not that there is anyone else who is alive to refute this.”

Thanks for reminding me, Emiko thought bitterly. But that does raise the question… She brought her gaze to the ground in front of her. Who was it that spoke to me that day—?

“Hey… Isla—“

A sharp meow from Atsui had Emiko reflexively cover her ears before a loud strike cracked through the rural road and electrified the air. Emiko blinked as she stared at the fire that had just erupted in the near distance, a dry maple that was unfortunate enough to be struck. As the split tree continued to crack and branches fall, Emiko flinched at the first wet drop that came from the sky.

“Quick, Emiko, to the trees!”

“I… I have a tarp!” Emiko squeaked, rummaging through her wagon. The rain had begun to fall a little heavier, and it was only a matter of time until it was pouring. Pulling the heavy sheet from beneath all of her gear, she threw it over the wagon before pulling Atsui into a side hug and drawing the tarp over her head. She proceeded to tuck Atsui into her sweater before grabbing the tarp in one hand and her wagon in the other, and began to race.

As she broke the tree line, the another crack of lightning signalled the arrival of a torrent of rain. The dull roar turned into a symphony of noise as it hit the broken pavement and passed over Emiko. All the while, she continued to run to the thicket of trees that Isla had pointed out.

Surprisingly enough, Isla was right. At the centre of the circle of trees, there was barely a drip of water. Not looking into the blessing too closely, she pulled herself into the middle and set Atsui down before ruffling through her wagon for a few pieces of rope. She started with one corner of the trees, lashing the rope to it in a knot that she had to re-tie a few more times before getting it somewhat right. She moved to the corner opposite and did the same, this time with a little more proficiency, until she found herself with all four corners tied down. With a sigh of relief, Emiko plopped onto the extra tarp that hung to the ground and lay down.

“Wow, you work pretty fast,” commented Isla. “Though, I am compelled to say, these knots do not look like they will hold.”

“Not… supposed to…” Emiko huffed. Atsui rushed up to her and snuggled into her bosom, which Emiko gladly appreciated by hugging the kitten close. “I’m not an expert.”

“Nor would I expect you to be.” Isla came close to try and snuggle with them, but Atsui hissed at her. As Isla shrieked in terror, Emiko patted the kitten on the head and shushed her.

“Now, Atsui, let Isla snuggle with us and keep us warm.” Atsui leaned into the touch in response and began to purr, but continued to give Isla a side-eye.

Isla sighed, before remembering something and smiling. “Oh, right!” She snapped her fingers. Putting her hands together, she closed her eyes and stretched her palms outwards towards the two. Emiko watched in curiosity, which quickly became wonder as a ball of light began to spin in front of Isla’s palms.

“Oh, heed me, light! That which pierces in and through all things, heed my prayer and encase us in warmth! Summer’s Day!”

Emiko was amazed as she felt what seemed like a warm blanket encase the entire area. She patted the ground beside her and was shocked to see it was now dry and warm, as if it had been sitting in the sun for hours. Isla hummed in success and snuggled in with Emiko and Atsui, the latter of which didn’t protest now that Isla had done something worthy of her tolerance, if only for the moment.

“How about that?” Isla smiled. “You will be able to do things like that once I start to teach you the basics.”

Emiko stared at Isla. “I… I can do that too?”

Laughing lightly, Isla snuggled in closer to Atsui, who moved her paw around Isla. Isla eeped, but now she was locked in place, so she resigned herself to her fate. “Maybe not as I cast right away,” Isla explained, “But certainly, you will obtain the same knowledge needed to perform magic of the same sort!”

“Wow…” Emiko said. “That’s… amazing.”

“Mmhm!” Isla hummed. “Now, let us weather this rain, for it will not let up anytime soon.”

Emiko nodded in agreement. Closing her eyes, she brought both creatures closer to her and rested her head on the warm ground. As she listened to their breathing, she could tell both Atsui and Isla had fallen asleep. Listening to the soft drips of water on the tarp, and the muffled pitter-patter of the rain on the ground outside of the tarp, she began to wonder how she had gotten to where she was now.

I thought I would be alone forever, Emiko thought. I thought Kodoku would be the end of me. She opened her eyes and smiled softly at the two sleeping forms of Atsui and Isla. This is cute. She rested her head back and looked at the roof of the tarp. I’m really lucky, even after all of this, aren’t I? She thought wistfully. I wonder what my brother would have thought of me now…

Her eyes began to droop. She tried to stay awake just a bit longer, to be able to keep pondering her life, but the travels of the day had worn her down. As her head bobbed slower and slower, she managed to whisper one last thing. “You… would be proud… Daiki…”