Chapter 131: Into Every LifeAlexandraErin on March 1, 2013 in Volume 2 Book 5: Nasty Disturbing Uncomfortable Things, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort
In Which Mackenzie Totally Blows
If anybody ever asks you: yes, there are definitely pros and cons to having a girlfriend who is a nymph.
A lot of people would probably guess there would be pros and might even have some definite ideas about what they are, but the thing is, you don’t even need to be girlfriends with a nymph for that. That sort of stuff just happens when they’re around. There are other benefits that come from being on intimate terms with a nymph… more intimate than sex, I mean.
Being a spirit wrapped in flesh… more so than most people, I mean… a nymph can make a good intermediary for dealing with the disembodied, as I’d learned when my girlfriend Amaranth helped me smooth out a misunderstanding with a touchy building. Assuming you’re not semi-infernal and thus highly allergic to divine energy, then a nymph can also be a convenient source of emergency healing. Even though she can’t heal me, her own natural resilience has come in handy more than once.
Then there’s her basic, fundamental connection to nature. For instance, when Amaranth told me that she expected it to rain on the weekend, she didn’t mean that she thought it might rain, or that she’d predicted it was likely to rain. What she meant was that rain was on the schedule, and barring some divine or magical interference, it would happen.
And so it did.
It came down in sheets.
She’d made the observation about the rain when we’d been planning to go out into the forest to gather moss for my Local Hazards class during the week, but then… events had sort of overtaken us. It’s the sort of thing that happens a lot in my life, even when I can manage to keep things on more or less an even keel most of the time. No matter how much I try to get my life in order, stuff still happens… and it keeps happening… and it mostly happens all at once.
With Amaranth confident that the rain wouldn’t let up if we waited and that the next day would be even worse, I didn’t really have a choice but to go out in it. It really hammered home how limited my wardrobe still was… I had come late to the idea of buying new clothes while I still had enough technically intact material under my bed to cover my shame, and while I had expanded my wardrobe a bit one thing I hadn’t added was a raincoat.
My leather jacket would keep water off me… or at least off of part of me… better than the denim one I’d been wearing, but what I really wanted was a way to keep the water off of it. I didn’t know much about leather, but it didn’t seem like a good idea to get it soaked.
It occurred to me that I didn’t know anything about the care of the most expensive garment that I owned, which was something that probably needed to be rectified sooner rather than later.
I didn’t need to look at Amaranth’s face to know that it would be a bad idea to suggest we postpone our quest until I’d had a chance to do some research. There were only so many hours in the weekend, after all.
Luckily I had some experience with keeping the elements off me… I may have been majoring in Applied Enchantment, but Elementalism did come somewhat naturally to me as a half-demon with a pretty strong fire aspect. The air shield spell I’d whipped up for fighting a small and speedy opponent only needed a little tweaking to become a rain repelling field. After making sure I had it down to the point it could be easily sustained, I did a light enhancement on my jacket, pumping some power into its own water-repelling properties. Once I was exploring its energy field it became apparent that it had been alchemically treated to resist water, but I didn’t want to push it.
Since I’d had to draw power from my belt of enchantment for my spells, I realized it was also leather and so I threw a similar enhancement on it.
“Honestly, Mack, it’s just a little rain,” Amaranth said as I finished up my preparations. “You’d think you were preparing to go out into a blizzard, the way you’re buffing up.”
“It’s not a little rain, it’s a lot of rain,” I said. “If it was a blizzard, I’d be staying in.”
“Regardless of the quantity of the rain, it’s still just water,” she said. “It’s not going to hurt you.”
“I’m not worried about myself, I’m worried about my leather,” I said.
“Then why’d you wear it?”
“Because the denim will just soak through,” I said. “The leather seems better, but it’s also more valuable.”
“A little rain… a little exposure to a lot of rain… won’t make your jacket melt,” Amaranth said. “It will need to be wiped down and hung up properly, which means acquainting yourself with those triangular things that live in the closet.”
“We don’t have a closet,” I pointed out.
“Don’t be smart, missy,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “It’s just… I am trying to take better care of my things. That’s the whole point of all this.” I gestured up and down my body. “I mean all this, the spell rigmarole, not all this as in my homework assignment.”
I watched Amaranth’s whole aspect soften. It wasn’t just her face… one effect of being nude was that it was more obvious how emotion affected her whole body. She’d been tensed up and the tension was now draining away.
“I’m sorry, too,” she said. “I’m so used to you flinching away from cooler weather that I didn’t even think there might be something else going on, and so I was kind of… braced for brattiness? And I didn’t unbrace.”
“It’s okay,” I said. “I’m definitely… edgy. I don’t like this whole thing. I don’t like that I have to take a delving class, even if it’s supposed to be oriented for my own survival. I don’t like that I have to go out into the woods and poke at moss that might try to eat my brain, and I don’t like that I have to do it in the pouring rain. I know we could have done it earlier if I’d been more on the ball, but I resent that I have to do it at all.”
“If we’d been more on the ball,” Amaranth said. “It’s your responsibility, but once I’d committed to help you I could have helped keep you more on task. And other things definitely came up… I mean, okay, yes, in an absolute sense there was time that we could have made to take care of this, but that doesn’t mean there was space in your life for it.”
“It’s classwork,” I said. “I’m a college student. There should always be space for classes… anyway, whether we could have made time earlier, we’re making it now… so I guess it’s now or never.”
I checked my air shield one more time and then we headed out through the glass front doors of Gilcrease Tower. My spell needed some immediate adjustment… I was using air to whip the cascading droplets away from me because it would have been too difficult to grab onto the succession of raindrops and push them away, and manipulating air as easier than water.
The problem was that instead of gently guiding the water away from me it was being flung out in every direction, which meant the instant I was out in the rain I found myself at the center of a mini-maelstrom.
“Can you tone that down a notch or two, baby?” Amaranth said, ducking and protecting her face. She barely noticed natural wind and rain, but it couldn’t have been pleasant for her to be hit with my runoff.
“Sorry, I’m fixing it now,” I said.
What I ended up doing was extending the spell so that it formed a dome above both of us instead of a bubble around me, and it simply blew the droplets gently upwards. They immediately fell back down and hit it again, but the sloped sides meant they ended up at the edges sooner rather than later and fell to the ground as a more gentle drip.
It wasn’t perfect… instead of an impervious barrier, it was more like a giant umbrella. It wouldn’t keep me completely dry, only keep the main downpour off me. Things like wind and splashback could get around it.
“That’s some nice weather wizardry,” Amaranth said. She gave herself a little shake that almost made the whole ordeal feel worthwhile to watch… her face had a wet sheen to it, but only a few drops of water clung to her body, looking more like beads of dew than rain. The water that had been streaming through her amber waves of hair hair didn’t stick around to weigh it down.
“Thanks,” I said. “It’s just elemental manipulation, though. I don’t think it counts as weather unless it’s larger scale or higher up… though on that note, I wonder if Pala’s around.”
“This rain doesn’t have anything to do with her, baby,” Amaranth said. “It’s one hundred percent all-natural free range rain, I promise.”
“I didn’t think it did,” I said. “But she could put a stop to it. Or at least, you know, divert it away from us.”
“Well, it’s the weekend… I doubt she’s on this plane of existence, much less the campus,” Amaranth said. “And even if she were around somewhere, would you really want to go tromping around looking for her to see if she felt like helping you out? You’d probably spend more time out in the rain than you will just finishing your assingment.”
“It was more of an idle thought than an actual idea,” I said. I didn’t add that if the littlest storm giant had stayed in-world, there was a decent chance she was back in the tower and on our floor even. That would sound like I wanted to go back and look for her.
We were following the sidewalks south through campus. The towers were on the northern edge, but we’d have to cross open fields to get to the woods on that side. Muddy ground wouldn’t slow Amaranth down any, but I’d be lucky if I didn’t wind up on my ass or worse.
“Tell me again what the assignment is,” Amaranth said.
“We’re supposed to go at least three hundred yards into the woods and collect some moss,” I said. Amaranth frowned, twisting her lip and biting it. “What?”
“It’s just… you’re not likely to find anything terribly interesting a sixth of a mile away from the manicured lawns of the campus,” she said. “Or did your professor specify a particular entrance point?”
“No, and it doesn’t have to be ‘interesting’, it just has to be moss,” I said. “Honestly, I don’t want to find anything interesting in the woods… interesting is what kept me too busy to come out and do this during the week. I just want to complete the assignment and be done with it, without any complications or side problems or… special guest entities.”
“Okay, baby, I guess I can understand that,” Amaranth said. “Lead on.”
“…am I leading?”
“It’s your homework,” she said. “And if it doesn’t matter where you go, then you can pretty much go anywhere. I think we’d want to head west if you wanted the best chance of finding something that might make your professor sit up and take notice, but plain moss is easy enough to find.”
“…you’re going to be disappointed in me if I don’t want to walk all the way to west campus now, aren’t you?”
“Honestly, baby, I swear I won’t,” she said. “If we’d managed to go when the weather was nice I might have encouraged you to be a little more… adventurous… but I know you don’t like cold, and I know people have problems moving on soft, wet ground, and it’s going to be dark under the trees which I know isn’t a problem for you but this is the kind of weather that brings things like ghouls out during the day and I still remember the last time we ran into a pack of those things.”
“So you’re really okay with me just going three hundred yards in and taking the first plain, boring moss I can find?”
“Of course… but don’t be careless about it,” she said. “Just because you’re not likely to find anything interesting doesn’t mean that nothing interesting will find you. This could be prime hunting weather for some kind of ambulatory moss.”
“Don’t worry, after sitting through a lecture about several dozen varieties of monstrous mosses I’m not going to take anything for granted,” I said. “Even if it was a bright, sunny day I wouldn’t take my chances just walking up to anything green and growing… I want to get this over with, but the way my luck runs, I’m going to be ready for anything.”
“And that’s why I’m here,” Amaranth said. She reached out and took my hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze. “Just in case, right?”
“Yeah,” I said, squeezing back. “Come on, I want to get this over and done with before we’re late for dinner.”