The barichirōma cannot hear their ancestral spirits. They cannot enjoy the gifts given by their clan and, therefore, are not productive members of desert society.
— The Dangers of Kyōti, Volume 3
Kanéko shivered as she struggled to go back to sleep. She grabbed the fabric at her waist and pulled it up. Rolling over, she dragged the sewn vomen blankets over her skin, but the tiny shreds of cloth pulled up and exposed her backside to the air. Despite the heat and humidity, Kanéko felt cold and clammy. She whimpered as she flailed at the cloth, trying to pull it back over her shivering body.
She felt herself waking but she didn’t want to face the world quite yet. Her fumbling hand brushed against someone’s fingers and she froze, but the hand just pulled the fabric down over her rear.
Thankful, Kanéko tried to relax. But, her mind woke up fully and she felt the hundred little things prickling her senses. The humidity choked her and she breathed in the dank smells of earth and water and grass. She could hear birds calling out in the distance and some creature barking.
Her eyes fluttered open and she stared at a thatch of leaves less than a link in front of her. A breeze blew past them, hot and humid, but she shivered with the sweat that prickled on her skin. She tried to push away the discomfort, but the more she thought about it, the colder she grew. Finally, Kanéko sat up with a groan.
Next to her, Maris watched her with concern. “Kan? Are you all right?”
Maris’s ears drooped. “I heard you whimpering all night. And I was worried. And I couldn’t sleep.”
The dalpre gestured to her lap where she was sewing a pair of vomen blankets together. “I tried to work on the sail. And it looks like it works.” The dalpre reached out toward Kanéko’s blanket. She frowned for a moment, and then air grew tense around Kanéko. The air blew up under the blanket which floated a few inches off the ground.
The blanket started to slide away and Kanéko grabbed it to avoid uncovering herself. “Maris! That’s amazing!”
Maris beamed. Her ears perked up with her emotions. “But it is a lot harder to do this then fly.”
The wind stopped and fluttered down to the ground. Kanéko drew the blanket back over her body.
Kanéko stared with surprise. “Really? I would have thought it would be the other way.”
Maris gestured up. “Up there, I can just let go and things move. And it just happens. But, here, I have to,” she paused, “I have to be careful. Otherwise, it will blow everything everywhere. And then it won’t work. And it will rip again.”
“I didn’t know that. Papa always said control took more effort. I thought endurance would be the hardest bit. I can’t do magic, so I’ll never know.” She ended with a sigh.
Maris reached over but Kanéko pulled back. “Kan? Are you sure? I mean, can’t everyone do magic?”
A tear formed in Kanéko’s eye. She sniffed and shook her head. “There is a test they can do. It costs a lot, about five thousand crowns for the basic test, twenty thousand for the full range. Papa paid for the headmaster of the Royal Academy himself to test me.” She sighed, “I didn’t respond to a single one.”
“What is supposed to happen?”
“You hold a crystal jar in your hand. If you have the right talent, the globe starts to glow. The brighter the glow, the more power you can use. We went through the twenty-two common aspects of magic and the forty-three rares.”
Kanéko sniffed. “Not a single one. Damagar also confirmed it, I have no magic.”
“And I’m sorry, Kan.”
Kanéko stared down at the blanket. She toyed with the seam and ran her fingers along the stitching. “W-When we got the letter, my father stormed out of the room. Mama, well, Mama does what she always does, she swore. I just kept crying, wishing it was some bad dream.”
She looked up to see Maris watching her. The dalpre’s ears were flat against her head and her tail unmoving. Kanéko gave her a sad smile. “My papa didn’t talk to me for three months, I thought he was going to disown me. I, I just stopped being near him. I skipped meals and just hid in my room as long as I could.”
“Mama is not a very patient person,” Kanéko grinned, “she decided that I needed to have a new direction that didn’t involve magic. Or me being a barichirōma. Five months ago, Garèo showed up and she hired him to teach me about the desert.”
“I like Gar.”
Kanéko chuckled. “He doesn’t know how to teach anyone. He just threw me on a horse and told me to… to be amazing. We fought,” she sighed, “so much. But… I guess he never gave up.”
“And your daddy?”
“I think he still loves me. He got me my first Nash book. Bought it off one of the traveling merchants. I’d never read something that long, and it used strange words. It took me a month to finish it and as soon as I did, I bought myself the next book.”
Maris reached over and took Kanéko’s hand. She tried to pull away, but Maris held tightly. “But I learned something from the mill. We fight with each other. And we yell at each other. But when it comes down to it, I know that if anyone ever hurt my daddy, even Bor would drop everything to kill that person.”
Kanéko bit her lower lip. “I’m sorry I called you an animal.”
The dalpre shrugged. “We’re both puppies. What comes out of our mouths is as serious as what comes out the other end.”
Staring at Maris for a long moment, Kanéko let the words sink in, and she started to smirk.
Maris grinned, and soon they were laughing.
As the laughter died down, Kanéko wiped the tears from her face.
Maris leaned into her. Kanéko jumped, but Maris pressed down and pinned her. “And I like you,” she whispered.
Kanéko blushed. To distract herself, she cleared her throat. “Um, why don’t we get going? If we hurry up, we’ll make it to the river by nightfall.”
The dalpre spun. Crouching down, her tail shot back and forth before she jumped high into the air. Her body spun with a puff of air and she landed hard on Ruben’s sleeping form.
He wasn’t sleeping for long.