My Exploding Cat

Just stories and drawings really, no actual fissile felines.

Chapter Seven–Maybe I’m Just Not Cut Out to be a Supermodel–Edit #3

The next day, I got out of the house and asked Jane where Elder Katyen lived. She pointed me to a brown two-story house with hot-pink accents in about a million places. I thanked her and left her with twenty bucks. My income had gotten surprisingly higher lately. Wonder why.

I went out and bought a slim black dress before buying the makeup store out of eye shadow and getting some leopard-print heels, really glad that it was Thursday and not, say, a Saturday. Most of the people outside the army had no clue who I was, so I didn’t have to answer questions. I explored the extents of the Zepha tribe, which happened to be one of the biggest and oldest Anoki tribes still in existence. Let’s just say that nobody really knows what goes on in the very middle of a forest like this. No matter how many bombs go off around here, humans won’t notice us, since the invisibility and silence spell that was kept strong by the mere existence of Star Anoki prevented humans from ever hearing or seeing us. Gee, another responsibility I had now. Great.

As for Katyen, I wanted to wait until evening to ask her. I couldn’t see doing it in daylight. I would do the house by magic, I decided, but I wasn’t sure what kind would be suitable. I drew a picture of what I thought the inside of Katyen’s house would be like, but decided to leave the magic for until after I’d gotten a glimpse of her place.

When the sky darkened, I put on the black dress and the heels. Can we say torture? This thing felt like a corset. I felt vulnerable without my bow, and this skirt prevented me from kicking noses. I did find comfort in the fact that I could rip my heels off and smack someone across the jaw with the back end. I didn’t find comfort in the fact that this wouldn’t happen, since I could barely walk.

I went up to Katyen’s house, looking as prissy as possible. I rang her doorbell, regretting that I didn’t paint my nails. I was dying to yank at various parts of the dress and straighten them out, but Katyen could answer the door at any moment.

When Katyen opened the door, I could see that her bright pink hair was twisted up into a curly bun with hair cascading down in random places, as if it were intentionally messy. Her rainbow of eye shadow put mine to shame and she was wearing more jewelry than Alicia the spy. It was likely, too, that she’d worn that dress all day. I, on the other hand, could only stand this getup for about ten more minutes.

“Oh, please, come in,” Katyen said in that slight British accent that you get after years of trying to fake a British accent and then giving up. It was hard to listen to, since her voice was kind of creaky.

Her entry room actually looked fairly normal, and the living room and kitchen, from what I could see, looked like a Starbucks with gold and tan accents and stylishly uncomfortable chairs. But her room door down the hall was painted hot pink and chocolate brown, and I dreaded to think of what might be inside.

I kept up the smile, and invited her over for dinner “because I’d redecorated.” Really, I was thinking, Why am I doing this? It’s so stupid…

“Of course! Come on in for tea.”

I sat through a session of tea in cups I was afraid I’d break, combined with paranoia that she might be watching my every word, with a little terror that I’d drop the fake accent any minute, or fall in these stupid shoes while she gave me a tour of the house, or bust a seam on this all-too-tight dress.

For the record, her room was painted entirely hot pink. No brown. Not even chocolate whatever. It was pink. And not ballerina pink, either. It was that overwhelming hot pink. Ballerina pink suggests that you’re girly, but hot pink jumps up and down, squealing it in tones only dolphins can hear.

“I always thought you were just sort of a grungy, boyish warrior,” Katyen started in with approval at the fact that I apparently wasn’t and major disapproval at the very idea of it being so.

“By day, yes,” I said, feeling like Princess Mia trying to keep her balance with her ankles crossed. I hated this and I was sure that I’d slip any moment. I couldn’t breathe! This dress… Air magic, now. Air. Breathe… maybe… I remembered that Katyen was staring at me, and I smiled brightly. “By night…” I flipped my hair for effect. Katyen smiled at me.

“Of course,” she said agreeably. I still couldn’t get over the fact that I would have to kill her later. But then I remembered that she hadn’t protected the kids, either, and that made me angry.

Great. One more thing to worry about. I had to keep from jumping on her table and impulsively throwing fireballs and starting tornadoes and hitting her house with lightning from the biggest storm ever seen…

I put all those thoughts out of my head. It was too tempting, almost as tempting as the prospect of socking her nose. Nah, the nose would be better. No matter how satisfying magic is, socking noses has always been more fun and tends to get me in less trouble.

Finally, Katyen ended the visit and said she’d come on Saturday. Smiling (well, clenching my teeth, but Katyen saw a smile), I let her close the door before ripping off the stupid heels, dumping them in the nearest trash can, and running barefoot back home. Fast.

It was 7:02 when I got home. I tried to get the stupid dress off. It didn’t work. My stress had made me sweaty, and it wouldn’t slide. I tried again, and realized that if I didn’t get this thing off, I would suffocate. I couldn’t keep up this Air magic much longer. I tried to cut the dress free with scissors and found out that it actually did have a corset in it. Great.

I reached for my rosebush pruners. They weren’t by the door. By now I was wandering the house, halfway undressed. I bent down to look for them more and gagged. I couldn’t get them, and I didn’t know any magic that gets rid of ugly corset dresses. This was ridiculous. I wondered how many times Katyen had done it, or if maybe it was this personality thing, like trying to fake her style was usually about as unsuccessful as trying to fake a British accent.

So I decided to make up a spell. I didn’t care what it was; I just needed something to save me, now. I muttered something with the remaining breath I had.

How could that possibly work? I wondered as the dress fell to threads, leaving me in my underwear, standing in the middle of my living room. I’d never heard of magic outside the Anoki elements. That was weird—and not just normal weird. I mean weird for me, which meant something. I was scaring myself, and we both know that takes a lot.

I realized that my foot really hurt from the thin board wedged into the dress falling on it, so I had nothing to do but go and get some pajamas on, attempt to sweep up the remains of the ugly “fashionable” dress, and go to bed. I would deal with Saturday’s attire and the house tomorrow.

I woke up at 10:00 A.M.. At least I felt better. Whatever unknown magic I had used to dispose of the dress, I decided to use it to redecorate the house. Because I had no clue what it was, I had to be cautious of using this magic too much. It could be dangerous—really dangerous.

I did the house up quickly, hoping that Katyen would believe it long enough to be fooled. Now I had all day to find something to cook and to find a dress that wouldn’t choke me. I got dressed and went out to the mall. From a different dressmaker than before, I bought a cutesy wrap dress that, when I tried it on, did not kill me or require rosebush pruners to take off. On a whim, I bought some plant food. My plants probably needed it by now, and I needed to find some kind of clippers quickly. The squashes were probably big enough to use as baseball bats by now.

I went to the grocery store and bought a solid pound of lamb and the smallest bit of saffron. I figured that would be sophisticated enough for Katyen, with a salad, and it fulfilled the “posh” requirement of buying ten times as much food as your anorexic guest will eat. (Makes good leftovers.)

I went home and cooked the lamb, grew a salad and put everything in the oven, where it would keep warm.

I went out to tend to the tomatoes in my teensy greenhouse. They were suffering from my absence and the lack of rain (the greenhouse was designed to water them continually with the rain through sprinklers on the ceiling, so that all I had to do was go out and water the container that provided water for the sprinkler). The container was dry, though. I took the hose and set it in the container on full blast. I wished I’d set it to drip in the bucket before I left. Oh well.

“Hi, guys, I’m back,” I said conversationally, entering the greenhouse. The chirpy voices of the plants all chorused at once.

“I brought you some fertilizer,” I said, beginning to dump the blue powder in each of the pots. As predicted, the tomatoes were suffering, but not too badly. My Earth magic combined with the moisture-trapping greenhouse and the sprinkler container that had been full when I left had meant that none of them were too wilted. The plants knew why I’d left, anyway.

“Can you fly now?” the cucumbers asked.

“Yeah, let’s see it!” the cherry tomatoes twittered. I smiled at the plants. They reminded me of little kids.

“Yeah, I can fly. And a heck of a lot more.” I saw that the clay corner of the greenhouse had a humongous thistle in it. I set the flower seeds on fire so that they wouldn’t grow. I like setting thistle seeds on fire, with matches or magic, because of how the fluff just lights up.

It’s especially fun if you put dandelion or cottonwood seeds on top, with maybe a little coffee creamer or eye shadow (especially 80’s eye shadow) on top if you’re in a place where nothing will burn down. Poof!

Okay, yeah, my means of entertainment are a little unconventional. So what? Lighting stuff on fire is fun.

I cut the thistle down with a hack saw and picked it up with my gloves on. The plants watched as a Fire spell reduced it to cinders. I swept them into a corner.

“But you can’t do Fire magic!” a pea plant twittered.

“Oh, yes I can.” I grinned.

“You’re going to do something you’re not sure about,” the mint said. The mint had an uncanny way of reading me. I didn’t know if it was my face, my mood, or just the way I moved, but the mint always knew what I was thinking. I kept fertilizing the plants and ignored it.

“It has something to do with the village. You’re trying to be strong, but you’re panicky internally. You’re worried about the kids, and you hide behind sarcasm.”

It wasn’t my expression, and I’d been acting pretty upbeat.

“Your posture,” the plant continued. “Your footsteps. The way you breathe. You are who you are, and you know it. You knew who you were before your powers came to you.”

My eyes narrowed. Sometimes I didn’t want the mint shouting my thoughts to the world. Fortunately, I’ve been the only person who’s been able to talk to plants, as far as I know.

Unfortunately, Tony was standing in the doorway. “The mint is right, you know. You’re tense. You don’t want to kill anything, but you know you have to. To protect the village. To protect… us.”

“How did you do that?” As far as I knew, the mint was the only thing capable of decoding my thoughts.

“You’re incredibly easy to read. To avoid being read, you need to convince yourself that you’re feeling something different. You’re worried about the kids. No… you’re worried about the other kids. You’re not worried about me.”

“That’s because you have Earth magic,” I said. “Don’t underestimate its strength. I did. It’s not a sissy healing talent… well, it is kind of a sissy healing talent, but it’s not just a sissy healing talent.” I frowned. “I wonder if you can shoot my old bow?”

I led him into the house. “No, I’m not this girly,” I said in response to his odd looks at my pink entry room. “I’m having Katyen over for dinner to… gain a little power. It’s a long story.”

I spent the rest of the day teaching him to use the bow, to fight efficiently up close, and to make arrows.

“That’s yours,” I said, handing him his mini-bow at the end of the lesson. “Don’t shoot it around other people unless those other people are attacking you. But a bow isn’t very useful when someone attacks you up close. You’re going to learn Amanda-Kwon-Do now. Mel taught me some stuff, and I taught myself other stuff by watching the warriors and adapting their techniques. Anoki have weak points, and basically, if it’s unguarded, you hit it. Your defense is mainly dodging stuff and waiting. Because once you attack, you compromise your defense. But that works the other way too, so once someone tries throwing a punch, you go for their unguarded jaw, or their temples or nose. You can kick their feet out from under them, once you get older and heavier, and if they aren’t standing sideways like an archer…” I lowered my voice. “Go for the crotch. That’s the one place that you hit to guarantee that someone’s not going to try striking again for the next minute at least, depending on how hard you kick and whether your opponent is male or female.”

“You’re weird.” Tony rolled his eyes.

“That’s my job!” I giggled. “But wouldn’t it stop you throwing punches? Anyway, your goal is to get the other dude on the ground. A really hard hit to the temple will black someone out, and you can make them wake up with any number of bruises, or if they really threaten you, make them not wake up at all. But only if they threaten your life. Otherwise, dragging their K.O.’d body to the police does fine.”

“That’s what you’re not sure about,” Tony said. “You’re going to kill someone. Did they threaten you?”

“No. They threaten you. They threaten everyone.”

“The Kliid?”


“A Zephan?”

“Several. The wars will stop, though, once I’m done. You’ll see.”

“Then they do threaten you,” Tony said, “because the wars would stop without them, and the wars threaten you.”

I was about to say that the wars didn’t threaten me, but then I thought. The wars killed my parents, and my mom was a Star Anoki. They’d managed to kill her. I didn’t know how, but they had. And they’d gotten my dad, too. Somehow this made me slightly more cautious. Who knew how long it would be before more kids’ parents got killed? I never knew mine, not really, and that sort of made it better, I guess. But if you know what you’re missing, that’s got to be worse.

I probably shouldn’t have been around Tony right then, because he read me like a book and I wasn’t sure what conclusions he’d draw from that.

Usually, logic whips poetry, so it’s unwelcome, but right now I kind of liked that idea. Logical. Mechanical. Sturdy. Intelligent.

“Don’t let anyone know I taught you this,” I said grimly as a warning horn sounded: the Kliid had attacked again, even though their Air Anoki was missing. Idiots.

My warriors were, all of a sudden, boring through the Kliid like moles. There were fireballs. There were splashes. There was a ton of street fighting, swords and bows, like all the army had suddenly been replaced by Romans.

About fifty fireballs, twenty mass healing spells, and a flood that left Zephan warriors in air bubbles, looking like Moses (if Moses had been a faerie creature with elemental magic) I was feeling a lot better. The Kliid warriors that couldn’t swim drowned. It was too good for them.

I still felt… I don’t know. I went back to healing and realized that I wasn’t the only one. Mel was still babysitting my friends…

I looked over to try and see where Tony was, and if he needed help himself. Probably not. But I wanted to know, anyway. I scanned the crowd, only to turn and see him perched in a tall tree, grinning at me.

“Did you really think I’d leave you alone?” he said.

“You remind me of me,” I said. “Protect your parents.” Tony, instead of climbing down, had the tree lower him from branch to branch. It was slow, so I just picked him up. His new bow was strapped to his back. He’d figured it out with the typical cleverness of an Earth Anoki, and I noticed that his ring was hunter green. Like a guy.

“Where are your parents?” I asked. Tony pointed to an area of the battlefield. Dang.

“Both of them?”

He nodded.

Mega dang. I flew him over but decided that it was much too dangerous for us to land. I couldn’t take him to Akana to gain flight abilities, or he’d be left to a fate fighting. But if his parents got killed, like mine… then again, I couldn’t leave the Zephans without a healer. I decided to do the spell myself, and I set Tony in a tree.

“Hold still for a minute, would you?” I did the spell, remembering what Akana had done. I hoped I’d done it right.

“You can fly now, I think,” I said.

“You think?”

“Look, I’ll put you on the ground first. You can try and take off from there.”

Turns out, I did the spell right.

“Can Earth Anoki fly?” someone asked from the mob, confused. There were murmurs of “No…” everywhere as Tony flew to his parents and shot their attackers in the stomach. Moving targets didn’t seem to bother him. I was seriously impressed. I wasn’t sure how many kids picked this stuff up that fast, but I was guessing not that many. I wondered if I would end up with my own army of kids, and giggled at how cute that picture was. Little kids making really angry faces.

Tony fought as I did, despite being an adorable nine-year-old boy with fluffy brown hair. I had to remember that in times of crisis, kids were violent when threatened, or at least tried to be. Especially if chef’s cleavers were around.

I had no clue whether the shield I’d tried to put around my friends earlier had worked, since they hadn’t been attacked, but they hadn’t been hurt, either. I did the same spell for the village kids. All of them. Nobody could hurt them now, not if the spell worked.

I sent another mass healing spell and landed in a tree. I didn’t know what to do. Something was telling me to worry about safety and about Katyen and the other elders, but my violent half wanted revenge. I was rattling with adrenaline, but I was also tired in that way you only get in battle. I sent another mass healing spell, but I was physically and magically exhausted. At least the meal was cooked and still warm in my Fire Anoki-made oven. I sent a new spell, a regenerating healing spell, but it took all my energy and I had to climb down the tree the conventional way. I walked home.

I wasn’t feeling well. I didn’t have the angry bloodlust that I’d had earlier. I took a nap, knowing that I couldn’t possibly manage Katyen and an assassination without magic. I was debating the merits of completing my full job before anyone could object or notice. Seriously.

This playing dress-up just so I could…

I collapsed out of magical exhaustion before I could finish the thought.

When I woke up, I had only an hour before Katyen was to arrive and I felt queasy again from lack of magic. The Anoki that got killed almost immediately (like by swords) had died, but flesh wounds and more minor wounds got healed through the spell I’d left, and it probably worked a lot better once I was awake and able to do magic again, since it had a source. If my going to sleep meant that people died, then I had to be conservative with any other magic I used. Hopefully, I’d be able to kill most of my enemies (Kliid and Zephan) with a sword, not a strength-sapping spell. That left the question: Would it save more lives in general to kill the Zephan threats quickly and end the war fast, or to keep as many soldiers alive as possible and let the threats keep killing Zephans? It wasn’t like I could command the army to retreat, especially not my group, or that would immediately put me under suspicion. How much magic did a killing spell actually take? I only had to do it a couple of times.

I considered stopping time again and killing Katyen now for that very reason. I don’t know why Mel said to invite her to dinner, or any of them. It would be obvious that they had been killed at my house… unless…

All of a sudden, I knew why Mel had told me to do that. I hurried and put on the dress I’d bought. It was actually halfway comfortable, almost like my normal green dresses (which I sewed myself so that I could make the skirts loose enough to kick in, and which I wore shorts underneath). Magic, like the poison I’d vetoed earlier, could come from anyone, especially the girl with new skills in every element. (Is it more a curse or a blessing to have power? Certainly makes life interesting.) And since there was a way, now that I saw it, to kill with the sword, the only logical thing to do was make use of it. Of course, not everything I’ve ever done has been logical.

I found the dinner still good and warm. I set the various types of wine on the table, wondering when Katyen would arrive. I didn’t know what to do next when the doorbell rang, and I didn’t have any more time for preparations. Things would have to be as is.

I did the whole welcome thing, then led her to the table and set out plates and dinner. I set out a glass for her only and offered any of the wines.

“Aren’t you going to have some?” she asked with surprise.

I wanted to say, “I’m thirteen, you idiot,” but what I did say was, “It’s not healthy. I have to stay in shape to fight.” It was a response that didn’t remind her how young I was.

“Of course you do,” Katyen said with that smile adults give kids when they think they’re being cute. She’s really going to think I’m cute later.

I served her the meal, but I think she approached it with the same attitude one approaches a child’s tea party. It didn’t matter, anyway, because all I needed was to get her here.

I did the silly things and waited patiently for Katyen to get bored. She eventually did, and got ready to leave.

“Hold on,” I said. “Don’t go outside yet. There are Kliid warriors snooping around everywhere. I should go with you for protection. I’d hate for you to get ambushed without someone around. I’ll walk you home.” I slipped on some sandals and started walking with Katyen to her house, which she’d never reach. I hid the sword in my quiver when she wasn’t looking, and in the dark, Katyen couldn’t see it. When we were halfway to Katyen’s house, I whispered, “Wait, I heard something!”

I snuck over to the nearest house, peered around it, and jumped back. “Close your eyes. I’m going to do magic now that will blind you if you don’t.”

She complied, ducking her head. I tiptoed back to behind Katyen, her eyes still shut and totally believing me, and I stuck her in the back with the sword, throwing my voice and yelling, “Katyen!” as if I’d just realized that she was being attacked by “another warrior.” (Turns out, curved swords aren’t very good for stabbing, so it was kind of messy.) I hid the sword in a raspberry bush and, forcing myself to sob, ran straight to the police.

I faked a story about how the Kliid killed her from behind while I was distracted, and the police bought it, too, with a little bit of secret Dream magic. Hopefully, none of them had picked up Star magic and the ability to detect when magic is being done like I had.

Two down, three to go, I thought, and headed home.

“I can’t believe it,” Tony said, dropping out of a tree. “She was who you had to kill?”

I made the cut-throat motion. I looked around, and as far as I could see, no one watched back. That didn’t mean I wasn’t still uptight.

“Good story. Why’d you go to all that setup? Practically everyone knows who you are now.”

“Where are your parents?” I asked Tony. It wasn’t spoken in an accusatory tone, not to Tony. He might be only about nine years old, but I considered him a member of my fighting party, and that meant that I a) gave him my permission to fight and b) had practically adopted the kid.

“Asleep. They know I go out, but they also know I can do enough Water magic to make myself invisible and sneak out of anywhere.”

“Whatever,” I said. I wasn’t looking forward to the other elders, but Mel had said that Katyen was one of the worst, so I should deal with her first thing. I’d visit Mel the next day, but first, I was going to get some sleep.

“Come on,” I said to Tony. “Stay at my house. It’s going to be a long night.”

This entry was posted on Saturday, January 8th, 2011 at 8:51 pm and is filed under Star. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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