Chapter 7:

Familiar Spelling

Emiko Alone


Emiko hummed and turned to look at the fairy that was flying beside her. “What… is it, Isla?”

She continued to look forward as she asked, “What was it you were going to speak to me about the other day?”

“The other… day?” Emiko thought about what had happened since the storm. When it had finally let up the next day, they had packed everything up and went on their way. The smell of fresh rain was intoxicating to Emiko, and she absolutely loved it, but it also meant that it was quite wet, and her hair had not agreed well with the increase in humidity.

On top of that, Atsui had decided to go hunting and had disappeared for the time being. Suffice it to say, her attention was on other things, and she had nearly forgotten about the thoughts she had yesterday concerning the origins of Kodoku.

“It was, well…” She avoided a puddle and stepped over a tree root that had broken the pavement. “You said… that not anyone could talk to a dragon.”

“Correct,” Isla affirmed.

Emiko frowned. “The night of Kodoku, I heard a voice. I thought it was just my imagination, but…”

“You heard a voice,” Isla restated. “That does not bode well.” She shook her head and crossed her arms as she flew backwards in front of Emiko. “In any situation, hearing voices is not a good thing.”

Gulping nervously, Emiko continued. “I can’t remember… exactly what the voice said. But I know it felt… sad? Amused?” Emiko shivered. “It was such a gentle voice too, but I…” She stopped in her tracks and shook her head. She didn’t want to relive that night. “I…”

“You think you might have played a part in Kodoku,” Isla said. It wasn’t a question. With a nod, Emiko sighed and looked at Isla. Her chest felt like it was being crushed, and she grabbed vainly at her sweater.

“I… I don’t know what happened, or why,” Emiko croaked. “That’s why I’m…” She cleared her throat and tried for a complete sentence. “I have to fix this for everyone.”

Isla eyed Emiko carefully. “Hm. And what has the world ever done for you? If what you are saying is true, then your wish was granted by a dragon, according to the deepest desires of your heart. Would you argue that the Dragon made a mistake?”

“N-no! I—“

“Or would you say that you realize your wish was more selfish than you realized, and now you are trying to reverse it?” Isla shook her head. “Do not think that a Dragon would take lightly to having a wish returned. After all, they already granted you a request once; Would they do so again?”

A pit formed in Emiko’s stomach and she felt her throat catch. “Please… It wasn’t— I never meant for it to be real. I never asked for this!” She stopped walking and turned to Isla with tears in her eyes. “Why… do you think… I’m out here!?” Emiko whipped her head downward and clutched the handle to her wagon tightly. “I can’t… sit around anymore… I—“ Emiko held her free hand close to her chest, trying to sink into herself as she held back her tears.

“I wanted… to stay at home.” Emiko clenched her eyes shut and shook her head. “I didn’t… want to move, but… I knew I would never live if I didn’t go out!” She opened her eyes and stared at Isla. “I’m trying, Isla… and I know it’s not enough!”

Isla watched Emiko carefully. As the latter decomposed herself, sniffling and cleaning herself up, Isla slowly moved in close and rested on Emiko’s shoulder. “It is alright to be afraid, Emiko,” she began, “For fear lives within us all.” She waited as Emiko met her gaze with red and puffy eyes. “Your passion is more than you give yourself credit for, and the reason why I believe you are capable of this. Many lesser beings would have given in to despair at my words, but you…” Isla smiled softly. “You are willing to face a true Dragon to return your people. Whomever it was of the true Dragons that granted your wish, I can clearly see why they did so.”

Emiko smiled bitterly. “I’m… nothing. I can’t even… speak properly anymore.” Her face fell into shadow as she continued, “Not even you… could hold back against… criticizing me.”

“Emiko…” Isla sighed. “I am not a fairy that minces words, nor should I. I have been tasked to watch over and guide you.” Rubbing her shoulder gently, Isla leaned to try and catch Emiko’s gaze. “I cannot do so properly if I am not honest with you or myself.”

Emiko’s laugh was hollow. “That’s… supposed to help?”

“No,” Isla shook her head, “But it is the truth. You remain for a reason, Emiko.”

“And what if… that reason is… nothing but trouble?” She looked up at a stray cloud that lazed its way into view. “What if I… really am… nothing special?”

“Then, perhaps, you shall overcome,” Isla said. “Do Terra’s words yet remain with you?”

“First to live… last to fall…” Emiko recited. “How could I… forget?”

“A lonely soul to save them all,” Isla finished in her stead. “You may not forget, but you cannot seem to see past your own shortcomings.” Seeing that Emiko was silently soaking in her words, she continued. “We do not believe in prophecies, Emiko. We believe in truth. What Terra spoke was not something that had been passed on to her, but something we, as fairies and guardians, observed, the moment we became aware of this world.”

“What…?” Emiko struggled to find words for her question, but Isla understood.

“In other words: Your destiny is your own.”

With hope in her eyes, Emiko looked at Isla pleadingly. “How… is that… possible?”

“Because it would be unfair to remove ourselves from the decisions we make,” Isla explained. “How would we learn and improve, if we could not decide to do so?” She gestured at Emiko. “I think you already know what it’s like to have choices be taken out of your hands.”

Try as she might, Emiko couldn’t stop herself from thinking about her parents. Mother and Father. They had never once truly listened to her. Oh yes, she would try. Emiko would try to explain herself, but even when they listened to her, they couldn’t hear her. They thought they knew what was best for her before she could decide for herself. And with every case of negligence, she felt like screaming. She did scream. In her head, in the fields at school, and whenever she broke down because she thought that her parents were still watching over her every move.

Daiki had been her buffer. Daiki had been her best friend, even among the close friends she had at school. That was because he was her brother, and he knew exactly what her family was like. He saw the real Emiko, and she had always appreciated that… until that day. Until Kodoku.

“Y-yes, I do,” Emiko whispered. “And… I never want to feel that way again. I don’t… want anyone to.”

Isla smiled. “Well, in that case, you are most certainly on the right path, and I would love to be one of those to help you on your way.”

With a slow sigh, Emiko nodded. The pink was fading from her cheeks as she said, “Thanks… I, uh… I appreciate your honesty.” She squirmed in place for a moment before starting the journey once more. “I… I’ve never really let loose like… that before.”

“Then you have already learned one of the most valuable lessons in life: A burden shared with a kindred soul is a burden lightened.”

“You’ve… experienced this before?”

“I have experienced the subjugation of our race, yes,” Isla explained. “It may not be the same but we, too, had our choices stolen from us, and our lives held at the precipice of death. You must understand, Emiko, that fairies live for indeterminate amounts of time, and to know that death is very real is a fact most do not consider.” She sighed. “In another world, we were close to being completely subjugated before a Dragon saw our plight and relieved us of certain doom. Now, we scatter across the world lines, so we will never have a threat to us like that overtake us completely.” She nodded quietly. “This is a wish we will never revoke, for it is key to our survival.”

“Wow…” Emiko whispered. “That’s…”

“Not as bad as being the last of your kind,” Isla finished for Emiko. “Rest assured, your fate is what mine and mine kin would have been, should we have been unable to gain favour in the eyes of a Dragon.”

“Alone… or extinct.” Emiko frowned. “I… never thought of it… like that.”

Isla responded, saying, “It will come with time. I can sense you still do not fully grasp the perilous situation you rest in, but it is not my place to say.”

“Not your… place to say, huh?” Emiko murmured. After a pause, she sighed. “Alright.”

Isla hummed and bowed in the air alongside Emiko for a few silent moments, letting their thoughts settle. Finally, Isla said, “Okay! On a much lighter not, I shall begin with your magic education!”

Blinking, Emiko processed those words again before gasping and glancing at Isla. “Are you… sure?”

“Yes! Forthwith, you are my student! Oh, I have never had a human to teach, either, so this shall be a first for me as well.”

“Forthwith…?” Emiko shook her head. “Anyway, should we… rest for now?”

With a shake of her head, Isla said, “Not so! It is always better to learn while moving, for it encourages proper understanding.”

Emiko frowned lightly. “I… don’t know how much… of that is true…”

Brushing off Emiko’s concerns with a proud scoff, Isla said, “In any case, let us start with the basics.” Emiko watched as Isla closed her eyes and spun slowly in place with her arms outstretched. “Magic permeates reality and can change the rules of nature. You can bend matter and space to your will, but only according to your understanding and comprehension of the world around you.”

“So it’s… kind of like the Force?” Emiko asked.

“The what?”

“Never mind.”

Isla pursed her lips before shrugging. “Before Kodoku, only a few people on this world were capable of tapping the world lines and opening their own conduits to the energy of existence. By so doing, they also exposed themselves to the same threats we are now party to.”

“There have… been others?” Emiko thought with wonder. “Mages, wizards, and witches…” Isla nodded. Emiko blurted the first names that came to mind and asked, “Like Merlin… or Morgana?”

“Now those are names I have not heard in a long time,” Isla said. Emiko widened her eyes and looked at the fairy curiously. “Indeed, Merlin was one of those who fought for our liberation. Even among fairies, he is a figure we speak of with respect. Morgana fought for us as well, but she was not well equipped for the taxing nature of magic on the mind, and she went mad. It cost us the both of them, and is ultimately what led one of the true Dragons to save us.”

She shivered with fear. “I could… go insane?”

“Only if you do not master yourself,” Isla said. “Because magic is unhinged by nature. To control the very blocks of creation, one must have a solid understanding of oneself. When we shape magic, we put a little bit of ourselves into it.”

She motions, as if making a ball with her hands, and starts putting invisible things into the ball. “That is what makes magic unique between each cast. But when we are careless…” She starts tearing pieces out of the ball until she motions to the ball as if it had fallen apart. “What makes it unique is exactly what makes it dangerous. The moment we lose our focus, we lose our ability to maintain ourselves and sure enough, magic will start to replace the pieces that make you up.” She shakes her head. “It is never the spell, but the focus. That is why it is always safer to have a medium, be it a ring, a staff, a wand, or even a familiar.”

“A familiar…” Emiko muttered. “So… I need something… to help me begin?”

With a nod, Isla said, “Yes. And here comes one such possible focus now.” She pointed, and Emiko followed her gesture to the approaching form of Atsui. Within her jaws, Atsui carried the body of a large creature Emiko couldn’t even begin to identify. As far as she could tell, it wasn’t anything that could have existed on the Earth, and Isla’s comment all but cemented her concern. As the tigress came closer, Emiko could see some scratches and blood on her, and Atsui seemed to be labouring in breath, but was otherwise just fine.

“A chimera. Impressive!” The fairy zoomed in close, inspecting the carcass as it dropped from Atsui’s jaws. “It would seem to be quite young, still, but old enough that we do not have to worry about others. Quite a terrifying foe for your familiar to defeat.”

Atsui licked her chops and sauntered up to Emiko proudly. Emiko hummed with amusement and nervousness as she pat the tigress’ rather large head. “Good… girl!” But what… are we going to do with it?”

“Is it not obvious?” Isla flourished her tiny arms out, motioning to the dead chimera. “It is our meal for the night!”

Emiko felt herself break into a sweat. “I don’t know… if we’ll be able to eat all that…”

“Not to worry,” Isla pronounced, “For Atsui will consume most of the beast as spoils of conquest. We will eat whatever is left.


After settling into a nice grove of trees for the night, Emiko had watched Isla cast a few spells that cleaned the carcass for cooking. Knowing she would need something a bit more heavy duty than a large pot, she grabbed one of the larger items in her wagon—a small BBQ—and set it near the base for a fire. She then set out to find some large sticks that she could lash together to hang over the fire.

Returning to the camp, she could see that Isla had set aside the pelt of the chimera and had divvied the pieces of the chimera into several large chunks, the largest of which were set aside in a pile. Emiko sighed in relief as she saw the completely reasonable amount of food she would be cooking. She then set the fire, and watched with satisfaction as a meagre spark turned into a crackling flame within seconds.

“I am… great!” Emiko whispered to herself with a smile. With her sticks appropriately tied together, she positioned it above the fire and set to work seasoning all the meat with her collection of pilfered spices and tongs. In no time at all, she had finished, and began to cut it into strips to hang over the fire. Using her tongs, she grabbed a glowing ember and put it into the coals of the BBQ. Holding her hand over it, she nodded when it felt hot and started spreading the other pieces of chimera before closing the lid and standing.

“You did pretty good there,” Isla commented. “Have you had experience before?”

“A little bit…” Emiko admitted. “I was part of… a group that went camping… and I would go as often as I could, just to escape. I learned a few things.”

Atsui meowed loudly and bumped into Emiko, who yelped in surprise before laughing softly. “Atsui! Behave!” The big cat in question rumbled in response before licking Emiko’s arm and settling down beside the large pile of meat. Sitting down on a dry patch of land herself, Emiko stared into the fire and watched the smoke rise, cooking the strips of meat hanging from the spit.

Thinking about what they had been talking about, Emiko said, “So… what you were saying earlier…”

“Atsui, as your familiar, can be your focus,” Isla reaffirmed. “She already seems capable of magic on her own, which is a boon to your own capabilities.”

Emiko look over to Atsui who had begun tearing into her food with fervour and relish. “Wouldn’t something… like you said, happen to her?” Emiko smiled lightly as Atsui meowed once at her before tearing into another piece. “I don’t… I don’t want to lose my first friend since…”

“I understand,” Isla said. “But you need not worry. As a creature of the wild, Atsui is innately resistant of the effects of magic on the soul. And as an intelligent familiar, she is even more so strengthened because of her bond to you.”

“…Really?” Emiko asked.

“Indeed. In a mutual relationship of trust and protection, you anchor each other to the world.” Isla nodded. “If you so desire, I could strengthen your bond, insomuch that you would know when the other is in danger. That would keep both of you alive and well.”

Emiko blinked. “You… can do that?”

“Yes, of course! You just need to be touching each other for the spell to take hold.” A sizzling noise alerted all of them to the strips of chimera meat that were now quite ready for eating, and Emiko rushed over to pull them off. “But first, you should eat,” Isla said sheepishly.

Emiko made sure that the BBQ’d meat had been turned before pulling the hanging meat off the spit and laying it on a plate. She then let Isla attempt to handle a set of chopsticks before giving up. They were just too big for a fairy to handle, though Isla didn’t seem to mind using her hands to eat. Pulling out her own special set of chopsticks, she prayed for the food and took the strip of meat into her mouth.

The mixed taste of the chewiness of beef and the taste of pork threw her for a loop, because it was surprisingly good. It definitely tasted a tad strange (what she figured people called ‘gamey’), but it was filling. There was also a strange spice that clung to the meat, making Emiko question what she had added to make it taste like that. Before she knew it, both Isla and Emiko had finished the plate of stripped chimera meat.

“That was delicious!” Isla said, patting her stomach. “Who knew chimera could taste so good?”

Emiko perked up at that as she checked on the BBQ. “You’ve had it… before?”

“Mmhm! Though it wasn’t cooked, and we had to purify it of poisons. It wasn’t very good raw.”

Emiko choked as she placed the last piece of BBQ’d chimera meat onto her plate. “W-what? Poison?”

“Yes,” Isla said, “Poison. Did you not know about that?”

She could feel herself turning green at the thought. “I… would not have cooked it if I had known that…””

Isla tried to reassure Emiko, who had pushed away the perfectly cooked chimera meat away from her. “It all turned out alright, Emiko! Cooking poison usually burns away its toxic effects!”

“U-usually?!” Emiko rasped, now facing the ground on all fours. “I don’t feel so good…” She then realized something. “W-wait, Atsui! She’ll… be poisoned since it isn’t cooked!”

“She’s a tiger, Emiko. They can stomach things we normally can’t—“

“I don’t care!”

Atsui meowed in concern at Emiko’s panic, and made to get up. Emiko beat her to it, however, when she ran to Atsui and knelt beside her, stroking the tigress’ head. “Are you alright, Atsui? Do… you feel sick?” It seemed like she was fine, but Emiko didn’t want to take any chances. Looking towards the hovering Isla, who watched the scene with interest, she pleaded, “Isla…! Can you cast that spell now?”

“Are you sure?” Isla asked, suddenly worried. “Doing so in a heightened state may change the outcome of the spell. It is custom to be at rest with your familiar before performing this spell, and to—“

“Just… do it!”

Sighing at the urgency, Isla nodded and held her hands out. She began to twinkle and glow above the brightness of the fire, before a soft light started to shine in her palms. “Heed me, light; that which touches all! Connect these two souls and strengthen their bond: Familiar Felicitation!”

A wave of pleasing warmth washed over Emiko, and she felt something click into place in her mind. She couldn’t stop herself from smiling, and she found herself leaning into Atsui’s fur, relishing in the touch. The sentiment was reciprocated, as Atsui began to purr, and Emiko sighed. As the energy dissipated, she could feel something of Atsui’s contentment being near her, and even the fact that she had never been in any danger at all. The feeling brought Emiko equal parts relief and exasperation.

“How do you feel?” Isla asked, eyeing the two carefully. “It didn’t mess up, did it?”

“I… think it worked,” Emiko managed. “I can… feel Atsui!”

It definitely worked! I can feel my Lady’s emotions as well!

Emiko giggled as the voice echoed out from Atsui. “Good to know… Atsui! Now I know if you’re safe or—“ Emiko froze as she realized what just happened.

My Lady? The soft voice echoed, and Emiko stared at Atsui. Are you alright? The tigress in question cocked her head to the side, as if the tigress herself had spoken aloud. Emiko gave the smartest response she could give.