“Oh. ‘Woodland girl.’ I get it now,” said Regina, who seemed as awestruck as I felt by the battle before us. “James, do you ever feel small, like nothing you do will ever compare with others?” I wrapped my arm around her shoulder and hugged her. “Generally, no, but just a bit at the moment.” The twins and Emma were so very quick and talented with their magic. When I looked back to the fight, Mai was pulling water from the grass and trees. Then Ai froze the water and sent a barrage of ice flying at Emma, who had a variety of plants close together and block the onslaught. After several minutes more, the twins just stopped attacking her and walked back over to Regina and I. “I hope you’ve both learned never to…” the rest of what the twins were saying was lost as the grass around them exploded upward to engulf them completely. Then spear-like branches shot out from the nearest trees from multiple directions. “What the twins were saying is that we were all just playing, so never underestimate your opponents.” She kissed Regina and I each on the head and started skipping away as the plants unraveled from the twins, leaving flowers in her wake.
Ai grumbled and told us “We were actually saying never to fight Emma around plants.” while glaring at Emma’s back. Mai was looking warily at all of the pointy tree branches surrounding her and her sister. “Where is Emma going?” asked Regina. “She’s probably fixing all of the damage we just did and tending to other plants as well. I think she likes them more than people.” explained Mai as the strange branches receded back into the trees. I looked up when I felt something jostle my hair to find Emma hanging from a branch by her legs. “I heard that, Mai. Don’t you believe her, man-slave. Some people are perfectly fine in my book.” asserted Emma before dropping down to wipe her hand on my shirt. “You need a bath.” She then hugged Regina and told her “Don’t look so glum, sweetie. For only a month of practice, you’re doing great! Seriously. I’ve been at the plant stuff for most of my life, but I’m already falling behind James with residual energy even with a head start. That stuff isn’t easy for us. You’re doing great with your freaky ‘luck magic,’ and that can be used anywhere!” Regina shrugged and didn’t seem to mind the ongoing hug as she remarked “I guess, but you three are completely amazing.
Even as Emma was talking with us, I could see plants moving unnaturally in the forest, spacing themselves and turning greener than before. “Is there any sort of range on the things you do with Plants?” I inquired. Settling herself between Regina and I, so she could have her arms around both of us, she explained “When I touch a plant, I can affect it and any plant it touches. In a forest, I can easily have root systems make contact, allowing me to affect things miles away. I can tell you generally what’s in an area by what’s touching the plants if I concentrate, but I wouldn’t be too competent in battle when I am not close enough to really know what’s happening.” She said that as if her abilities were a letdown, but I felt like she was the forest itself given a human body. “That’s seriously incredible, Emma.” Ai then acknowledged “Yeah-yeah. She’s great in the forest. We were being careful as well, so we wouldn’t accidentally hurt her.” Mai had her arms crossed and just rolled her eyes as Emma smiled and leaned against Regina’s shoulder while taking hold of my hand. “You two are just jealous that I can do this.” A plant grew from behind her, produced a single ripe strawberry, and placed it in her mouth before receding. I laughed and received two stern gazes from the twins in return for my mirth. “You need to get back to practice. Regina, put him in the dirt for us. This time use magic.”
As I focused once more, I could see an enormous amount of residual energy where the girls had been fighting, practically mapping out the encounter, save for holes where the twins used some. I must have missed the twins saying to start, because I barely raised my arms in time to block a kick to the head from Regina and stumbled backward into some energy. I was about to make use of it when Ai, Mai, and Emma all said to stop. “What did you just do, James?” Regina was looking quizzically between them and me. “I was distracted looking at the energy you three left, almost got kicked in the head, and fell. Congratulations to Regina on nearly putting me in the dirt in a few seconds. I think Emma would need to clear out some of the grass to really manage well though.” The twins pulled me up, spun me around, and held me by the arms. “See anything, man-slave?” asked Emma as she pressed against my back and hugged me. I had to refocus, since I stopped when they called off the fight, but I did notice something. “Some of the energy’s gone. As if…” I passed my hand through some of what was remaining, and a little more seemed to disappear. “What is happening?” I asked. Everyone had been quiet for a minute when Regina suddenly said, “Take your shirt off, James.” I looked at her in disbelief and inquired “What!? Why?”
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Emma, who I could feel lifting up the back of my outer shirt. I went to move forward, but the twins held tightly to my arms as Emma clung to my shirt. “Hold it. We want to see if the energy dissipates faster with you shirtless,” said Mai. “This is entirely scientific,” affirmed Ai. I could hear the giddiness in her voice as Emma added “Well, not entirely!” My first urge was to resist, but I knew I didn’t have a chance. I was better off getting this over quickly than to embarrass myself trying to fight off multiple people vastly more skilled than me at once. I acquiesced and removed my shirts, only to regret it within a few minutes. First the girls had me walk through the largest bundles of energy, which wouldn’t have been as bad if Regina wasn’t staring as intently as the other three, since she couldn’t even see the stuff to my knowledge. As far as I could tell, having my shirt off had no effect on how much energy I absorbed. Then Emma suggested that I might need my pants off as well, which I outright refused. All of them giggled, and I was surely red in the face. “May I have my shirts back now?” Regina, who was holding them, just shook her head. Feeling that arguing wasn’t going to get me anywhere, I started walking back to camp, but gained my focus on the residual energy.
“Regina,” said Mai. “Get him!” continued Ai. I smiled to myself and waited a couple seconds before I ducked and spun as if I were going to sweep her legs. She jumped, and I quickly formed some energy into a spell, sending it to get my shirts where she left them. One day, I’d probably be able to have put my shirts on in a second that way, but I was currently content just for the look on Emma’s face as the shirts flew past her. Ai, unfortunately, countered my spell as Mai caught them. “Nice try, man-slave!” called Emma. I managed to block Regina’s punch as I stood, but I lost my footing in mud and fell to the ground a moment later. When she stepped closer, I sat up and pulled her foot out from under her. Before I could monopolize on the maneuver, a dead tree branch fell between us, sending me diving out of the way. Regina used the moment to stand and remove her now muddy coat. “Woohoo! Strip fighting! You go, girl!” yelled Emma. Blushing suited Regina. Her complexion made the blush very cute. While she was distracted, I used the branch that fell at us to sweep out her legs again and ran over to pin her. Regrettably, I slipped again. Part of me couldn’t help reflecting on how I had thought the grass would need to move for me to get dirty with how thick it was. Sure enough, Emma was glowing brightly with energy when I looked at her.
By the time Regina and I were finished, which was eventually aided by instruction and demonstrations of new techniques, we were completely covered in mud. Despite the mud, all of the girls seemed extremely huggy to me as we walked to a brook. Didn’t someone once tell me that girls weren’t suppose to like getting dirty? I definitely didn’t find any aspect of dirt on me being particularly enjoyable, although I couldn’t complain about how any of the girls looked. I could, however, complain about the brook when I saw it. The water was barely three inches deep. “You and Emma practice that water purification spell.” commanded Ai. “We’ll take care of the rest.” declared Mai. Regina sighed, seeming disgruntled, so I rinsed off my hands and then drew a smiley face in the mud on her cheek. “There. Now part of you is happy at least.” She smiled, playfully hit my arm, and told me “Get to work. You can’t make Emma do everything.” The twins both stared at her until she said, “I meant the purifying stuff. I know you two are doing something too.” They obviously were at that. As Emma and I purified water, the twins were floating larger and larger quantities above the ground. “Before you get in, let’s get that mud off you,” said Mai. I was completely caught off guard as the stream rose into the air and washed over us all.
The mud washed off each of us and then fell onto the ground as the water continued back into the brook. Then the brook’s course returned to normal as if nothing had happened. “With us being dry and clean, why did you have us purify all of this water?” I asked. The twins shrugged and said together, “We felt like a swim. Problem?” I looked at them and then back to the floating body of water and felt like chuckling. I never thought of swimming in water that was suspended in the air like an enormous raindrop that forgot to fall. Jarod was going to be completely jealous when he heard about this. Then I remembered. “Actually, I didn’t bring a bathing suit.” Ai said, “That didn’t stop you last time.” Regina looked at me in shock, and Emma bore a smile that left me feeling very uncomfortable. “I was wearing my boxers. They’re swimsuit-ish.” I claimed. “Oh? I forgot that part of your cover.” commented Mai. Luckily, Regina seemed to realize the twins were messing with us, but I quickly spun around when she started lifting off her shirt. “What are you doing?” I asked, feeling slightly panicked. “If you can swim in your underwear, so can I. It’s not like you haven’t seen me in a bikini before.” I had. Reasonably, I knew the two might look similar. There just was something not quite right about the idea, especially with the twins and Emma there. What was I going to do now?