Catching Up: Part Six
Standing away from the group the next day after class, Patricia stared out over the playing field, frowning and trying to think. She half wanted to tell the rest of the Racers about how Illusen had led Evea's group, but she wasn't sure if that would be a good idea. Maybe Ms. Evea had meant it for her ears only. If that were true, though, she had to have singled Patricia out for some reason.
But why? The Dark Faerie shrugged and sighed. She didn't know.
Snapping out of it, Patricia looked around to find that the rest of her group was already sitting down around Ms. Evea, waiting for her.
She bit back an apology and instead raised her eyebrows at Lianar, who'd called to her. She walked over casually, as if she had always meant to come sit down, and settled down on the grass next to Lillian.
"All right. Now that we're all here, we can start." Ms. Evea spoke briskly, not looking at Patricia. "I thought for today," she added, dropping down to sit on the grass herself, "we'd talk about some other teams of Racers--the famous ones--and the league. Which teams have you heard of? Yes."
Therisa smiled, dropping her hand down. "Well, the Underclouders, and High Cirrus."
"Watchtower Guard," Lillian added, without bothering to raise her hand.
"Queen's Own." Lianar suggested this one, and everyone smiled a little, even Ms. Evea.
"Yes, although that's a title, more than a name. Any others?" The Fire Faerie nodded. "Yes."
"Lifeforce," Emm said. "Blessing of the Faeries."
"Astral Maelstrom." Arielle smiled.
"Good! That's all of them. There are really only six league teams active at any given time, plus the Faerie Queen's selected group. Why is that?"
Patricia watched Ms. Evea carefully and waited for someone else to answer. When no one offered, the Dark Faerie said, "So that there can be a group of any given element to perform."
The Fire Faerie looked around and nodded. "Yes. Exactly. Sometimes there will be a show commissioned from Maraqua, or someone wants to put something on and have us over lava, so they need to specialize the sorts of Faeries they take to that event. What's the element most often used?"
Everyone frowned, thinking, but no one knew.
"Trick question," Ms. Evea admitted the next moment, smiling. "There really is no specific element that's asked for the most. Air Faeries are probably the least--sorry, Arielle. That's because all of you fly in the sky anyway. I think I heard once of a show being put on up on Kreludor--they used Air Faeries for that. But otherwise, it's usually the other elements that do the special events."
Everyone nodded, except for Patricia, who just watched them.
"After everyone in your class has been put into groups, and you've all had some time to work together as a unit, I'll probably mix everyone up for one time, see how you work that way. You have to get used to working with groups you don't know, and other Faeries. It won't always just be you."
Ms. Evea looked around at them all, evaluating their interest. Lillian was fiddling with her shoelaces, and Emm plucking at the grass next to her.
"But you won't need to know a lot of that unless you're trying out for the leagues," the Fire Faerie said. "Do you want to do some more of the things we've been doing before, or just end it?"
"Some exercises," Emm said, dropping the shreds of grass back to the ground and looking up. Therisa nodded, and Lillian smiled. Lianar jumped up as answer.
"And you, Patricia?" Ms. Evea raised her eyebrows at the Dark Faerie.
Patricia raised dark eyebrows back. "It would be cruel of me to abandon my teammates," she said dryly, and stood up as well.
Patricia lingered after their meeting--after everyone else had packed their things and left for their next class or free time.
The Fire Faerie looked up from sorting through papers. "Yes?"
"I was wondering." Patricia hesitated, and then shrugged. She might as well just ask. "If we have to learn how to work with anyone, why are we just working in our small group? Shouldn't we be doing these things--trust exercises, and all that--with the whole class, or even more people than that?"
Evea finished sorting, stacked all of her papers together, and picked them up before replying. "Yes and no. First of all, not everyone goes into the leagues. And working as a group is a skill that spans a lot of disciplines. Almost any teacher in this place would tell you that."
She frowned out over the playing field.
"For those who do want to make Racing their career, and try out for some of the top-notch teams, or even the lesser ones--well, it's easier to do teambuilding with a small group first. It's easier to go from being a part of one team to being a part of another, rather than trying to adapt right away to being part of a team you know nothing about."
Patricia nodded slowly, listening. "So it all does have a point, then?"
"Oh, yes." The Fire Faerie smiled. "It definitely does. Your group just got a head start on things, here."
"And--" The Dark Faerie stopped again, and then shook her head. "Never mind."
"What?" Evea watched Patricia as she shrugged, looked away. "All right." She smiled. "See you tomorrow, then?"
The Dark Faerie nodded. "See you tomorrow," she echoed, and watched her teacher start off along the edge of the field toward the other end of the building.
Patricia stood by herself on the empty Racing field for a few moments, staring out across the sky, and then shook herself, snapping out of it. She glanced up at the main building of the Academy and shrugged.
"Might as well go study, then," she told herself, and shrugged. "Nothing better to do."
Tucking her hands into her pockets, Patricia headed toward the school and her dormitory room.
Lillian headed for the library as soon as she could excuse herself from Lianar's chatter. She liked the Light Faerie well enough, Lillian thought, hurrying away down the purple neutral corridors, and certainly Lianar's perpetual happiness was infectious, but after a while it started to get irritating.
To her, at least, the Water Faerie added mentally. Maybe she was the only one.
She stopped in front of the wooden double doors that opened into the library and glanced around to make sure no one was coming. She wasn't sure why she did that. It wasn't like going to the library was something to be ashamed of, after all, or something to be secretive about. Still, it felt like the right thing to do, and Lillian was relieved to see that no other Faerie was in sight.
The Water Faerie half-opened one of the doors and slipped inside, letting it fall quietly shut behind her. She stepped into the library.
The library of Faerie Academy was well-known among its kind for the color-coded sections: red for the books on Fire Faerie magic, blue for Water Faerie spells and volumes, yellow for books concerning the Light Faeries. The books that applied to several disciplines were shelved in the largest section, which also occupied the middle of the library.
These shelves were painted purple. The Faerie Queen's color, alone among the Faeries', was tacitly acknowledged as the neutral color. The hallways in the Academy that did not specifically belong to one element or another were painted that hue as well.
Lillian headed for these shelves, and the card catalogs made of purple wood that stood near them. Faerie Cloud Racing had never been affiliated with any particular element, and so she assumed that the books on that subject would be there.
Heading up to the librarians' desk with a pile of books on Earth Faeries' magic, Emm was surprised to see Lillian walking in the same direction with her own stack of volumes.
The Water Faerie half jumped, and then turned, smiling. "Hi, Emm. What're you reading about?"
Emm shifted the books from one hand to the other. "A bunch of things. Mostly Earth Faeries' magic. Some of the really famous ones, or even the ones who are obscure but did amazing things."
"Sounds like fun." Lillian smiled, but Emm thought her heart wasn't in it.
"How about you?" the Earth Faerie asked, cradling her books against her chest.
"Oh." Lillian looked down at her books. "Just... stuff."
Emm blinked, but nodded. "Okay." She led the way up to the librarian's desk to check out the books, frowning. Lillian was acting oddly. Then again, it wasn't really Emm's business to ask about it.
Maybe it was, though, she thought, as the librarian, a Light Faerie, handed her the books and gave her the date on which they would be due. For the good of the group, and all that.
The Earth Faerie waited for Lillian to be checked out too, and walked out of the library with her.
"Is something wrong?"
Lillian glanced over. "What? Oh. No. Nothing's wrong."
"It's just, you're acting... oddly."
The Water Faerie bit her lip. "Am I? I suppose. Nothing is wrong, though."
"Oh. Okay." Emm frowned. "What is it, then?"
Lillian hesitated, looking down at the books in her arms. Emm looked at them, too, and turned her head sideways to read the titles.
"Oh, cool! You're reading about Faerie Cloud Racing?"
"Well. Yes." The Water Faerie glanced away, ashamed. "I guess... I am."
"'The Mathematical Side of Faerie Cloud Racers,'" Emm read off. "That sounds really interesting. Can I borrow it after you're done?"
Lillian smiled a little. "I guess you can. If you want to, that is."
"I do. Well." Emm smiled. "Maybe not that one, particularly. Math isn't my strong suit. But one of the others, sure."
"I didn't know--how people would react. I mean, to me reading up about all this stuff. I know I'm not the best on the team, but it's awfully fun, and I want to know more about it. I'm even thinking of making it my focus, when we have to pick them."
"Are you?" The Earth Faerie sounded impressed. Lillian relaxed a little more. "I have no idea what sort of a focus I'll pick," Emm added. "I mean, I know I'm interested in Earth Faeries' magic, but I don't know what I want to do with it. That's sort of why I got these books out."
"I don't know yet, exactly. I mean, picking our focus is a while off still. But I really like Racing, so I thought I should read some books about it." Lillian smiled. "We have time, though. Enough time for you to figure out what to do. Maybe I'll change my mind and go Healer instead."
"I think you'd make a good Racer," Emm said. "I'd root for you." She smiled. "Racing is fun, but I don't know if that's what I want to do for my whole life. It just seems a little--pointless, I don't know."
The Water Faerie shrugged. "I guess. But we haven't even gotten to fly in our group lessons yet, so maybe you'll change your mind."
"Maybe." Emm grinned and looked around. "Well, this is where I stop, I guess." She indicated the change in the walls from purple to blue, the Water Faeries' color.
"Oh." Lillian grinned back. "Sorry. I didn't realize."
"It's okay, neither did I." The Earth Faerie shrugged. "See you tomorrow, then?"
"Yep. See you." Lillian hurried down the hallway with her books. Emm smiled and watched her until she disappeared, and then she turned to make her way across the Academy to the other wing and her own dorm room.
There might be time to start reading the first of her books, Emm thought, though not much. She glanced up at a clock as she passed it. If she hurried, she thought, she probably could.
The Earth Faerie looked down at the books she held, smiled, and walked faster.
To be continued...