“I’m sorry, but I’ll pass this time. Next time we go camping, I’ll be sure to grab my trunks, okay?” As amazing as swimming in a floating body of water would be, I couldn’t help feeling nervous about swimming in my boxers with four very attractive girls. I nearly fell when my feet stuck to the forest floor, entangled in grass. “You wouldn’t really abandon defenseless girls in the woods, would you, man-slave?” asked Emma as she smiled at me. “I don’t know how you’ve managed James by yourself for this long, Regina.” started Mai. “He can be so difficult and troublesome.” finished Ai. “Your luck truly came through when you met us, didn’t it.” they stated together. As Regina stuck her tongue at them, I attempted to cut the grass with magical force. Cutting grass from one side of a single foot at a time wasn’t very effective, since the grass regrew far faster than I was cutting it. Basing a circular motion off what the twins had shown me for creating tiny whirlpools, I made a spell that would hopefully cut the grass in a swift circle around my foot. “Will this work?” I inquired, knowing better than to release a spell without being positive of its effects. “Not bad, but that could use a bit of tweaking,” said Ai as Mai demonstrated a revised version of my spell while removing her tank top.
My focus nearly left me, which was probably her intent. I did my best to rearrange my spell as she had shown me without noticing what was behind her spell. With only marginal confidence, I still risked releasing my spell on some grass across the brook. The grass was cut in an oval with a hollow center! I adjusted the shape of my spell slightly more and managed to cut the grass clear around one foot, save for the closest few strands that I broke by lifting my leg. My victory was short-lived, since the grass engulfed my foot once more the moment it touched the ground, but I would get better with practice. “This is one of your best ideas ever, even if the man-slave is resisting its awesomeness!” exclaimed Emma. I looked up to find her jumping into the floating water and then swimming to the surface.” The twins did simultaneous handstands and pushed themselves into the water feet first. Then the floating pool spun them to the top, nearly sending Emma falling as she had to adjust her orientation. My shirt was being lifted up by Regina, who I had missed approaching me as I watched the others. Swimsuits weren’t so frilly. I averted my eyes, but heard her say, “Come on, James. You’re not seriously going to miss an opportunity like this, are you?”
Before I could answer, the pool came down on us, sucking us up through it in a vortex. I found myself bobbing at the top of the floating pool, not having to swim at all. “Now isn’t this far more relaxing.” asserted the twins. I probably would have agreed if they didn’t force my arms up while Emma and Regina lifted my shirts. I gave up, shut my eyes, and tried to enjoy the strange sensation of the water moving around me. When I felt someone grab for my belt, I said, “Wait! Fine-fine. Just dry everything for me, please.” There were some arguments I just couldn’t win, and boxers were quite similar to swimming trunks after all. Someday I hoped for the tides to turn, allowing me to stand up for myself against these vixens more successfully. For now, I thought to myself how much I loved magic. The twins were floating everyone’s clothes behind the pool as we slowly drifted back to camp. Things became uncomfortable again when I followed Emma’s gaze and realized she was checking out the other girls. To make matters worse, the twins then pretended to be shocked and hugged my back while imploring “James, save us from the naughty Emma! She’s not behaving.” As if pressing themselves against a guy’s back was behaving in their state of undress. Regina knew me the best. She at least could have maintained some propriety. Instead, she hugged me from the front, claiming to be saving me from Emma’s gaze.
“Oh, come on, guys! I’m not THAT bad,” claimed Emma. “Unless you want me to be, of course.” she finished, gazing into my eyes. Though her pink spandex was probably the most appropriate outfit currently worn for swimming, I couldn’t say that water detracted from how she looked in it even slightly. I wasn’t sure if Emma was trying to pull Regina off me or just wanted to hug her, but my cheeks heated as she looked down. What was with these girls? Did they really thrive on making me uncomfortable? I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Then I did my best to meditate, forgetting my body and letting my mind empty. With great difficulty, I succeeded. I was vaguely aware of them talking, and pushed that away as well. There was nothing but peace. I came back to the moment an indefinite amount of time later, my eyes snapping open as I fell. Luckily, all of the training was paying off. I managed to land perfectly, and quickly assessed whether or not I was about to be attacked. I achieved my focus on the residual energy of our campsite with ease, and found that the twins were repurifying the floating pool while sucking the water out of everyone’s undergarments; the last bit causing me to hastily avert my eyes.
“James, we’re hungry. Get a fire going.” demanded Ai before following her sister into the “changing” tent. Not really feeling the need for a change, since the twins had cleaned my clothes with the brook earlier, I quickly dressed before regaining focus to clean out the earthen pit of ash and stack new wood in it. Doing everything with magic still seemed tedious to me, but I knew it was expected. “How do you start a fire again?” Mai stepped out of the tent, fully clothed much to my relief, and told me to show her what I thought the spell was. “Perfect. Now get it going.” I started the fire as Ai came out. “Aren’t you going to change, Emma?” asked Regina when she emerged. “You were waiting for me, and I missed it?” exclaimed Emma with a grin. She then said, “I’m comfortable like this.” I wondered yet again why must I constantly be at war with myself, enjoying beauty in all its forms while telling myself not to look? The twins glared at her and told her “We’re sure.” She sighed grandly, and then made her way into the tent. I felt a chill as the cooler beside me opened and raw venison floated over to the Mai, who started seasoning it with spices from her wooden box. Ai started listing off vegetables she wanted to Emma, who was still in the tent.
Emma stepped out wearing a black mini skirt with a sheer, red trim and a matching red shirt with a black skull on the front that hung down over her left shoulder; not something I would have ever expected to see in the woods, especially with a lack of shoes. She was carrying a small bag that turned out to be holding seeds. I continued telling myself how much I loved magic as various seeds formed full-grown plants bearing vegetables. After Ai carefully Ai’d the selection and claimed a few, the plants reverted back to seeds once more. “Do Mai eyes deceive me. You have quite the Ai for vegetables. Talk about a sustainable food source.” I observed, earning a giggle from Emma and a groan from the twins. Regina, who had sat beside me, rolled her eyes when I glanced at her. She probably knew it was coming, having years to grow accustomed to my sense of humor. I watched carefully at the spells the twins used to slice, dice, and otherwise manipulate the food as they cooked it over the fire. When I asked, Mai explained to me that one of the spells was shielding the vegetables from some of the heat, so she could control the temperature with greater ease. If only I had seen them put up such a shield on themselves, I could understand how they could stay by a fire so long without starting to sweat.
We all sat in silence for a time, enjoying the superb meal. Then Mai stated “We still can’t figure out why you absorb energy, James. You’re human. We verified that a while ago.” My look was surely confused by the last statement as I gazed at her. “Sorry, but we had to check. Emma acquired some of your DNA a while ago, and we had every test we could done on it. You’re the only human I’ve ever seen who can naturally use magic.” followed Ai. “Emma told me a while ago that she found others in research,” I said. “Well, I might have been a bit vague on that, man-slave.” she admitted with a guilty smile. “Don’t freak out, but the research I did was in some very old books the twins have access to. You’re the only known fully human of this age who can do magic.” The gears of my mind were frozen as I stared at her. “Just don’t get the big head. We obviously can’t track things too well, or all of the baddies would be dead.” asserted the twins in unison. My mind lurched forward with countless questions, but I was having difficulty voicing any of them. “And what about me then?” asked Regina. “You’re lucky enough to have a Fey somewhere in your ancestry.” remarked Emma with a smirk. Regina simply nodded, as if she wasn’t remotely surprised that her blood shared some connection with a creature we would have brushed off as myth barely over a month back.
“Regina, which one am I?” asked Mai. “Ai, of course, unless you told me wrong this morning.” The twins had switched their hair styles when they changed clothes, but Ai told her “You’re getting good. We did tell you wrong this morning. James?” I shook my head and said, “Yes, I know the truth. Do you think that’s why I absorb energy? It powers my sense of who is who?” Regina leaned against me and whispered “Was I wrong?” I nodded as Ai shrugged and told me “We have no idea, but you are a fun-wrecker.” Mai then added “It’s a possibility at least. We’re missing something, and we need to figure it out before you meet Alpy.” I was intrigued. “Why? What would she do to me?” Emma blurted “Nothing, but she’d pick on those two horribly for not knowing!” I smiled and said, “Well, that would be a nice change of pace. Are you certain that she’ll know though?” Without even a moment’s hesitation, the twins responded in unison “She’ll know. You’ll be amazed how little gets by her.” I had to ask then “So when do I get to meet her?” The twins looked at one another for a brief moment and then announced “Break’s over! Time for more training before James gets more annoying!” By their mirthful smiles, I knew I was in for some punishing exercise. Perhaps they were telling me that I would meet this Alpy when I was ready. What defined “ready” to meet someone who even intimidated the twins?