Rika wove her way through the crush of students, her feet taking her to her locker while her mind drifted back to the day before. She hoped that Damek and Elthia were feeling a bit better. Not that she was going to blame them if they weren't. She knew what it was like to think that you were never going to see anything familiar again…

She shook her head. She should be focusing on how to make them feel welcome, how to make them feel at home, so even if they couldn't go back, they wouldn't feel out of place. She supposed she ought to try and introduce Damek to her old dojo, and maybe find some kind of naturopath for Elthia to help out. Or maybe start her up as one. If they had work that they knew, that might help.

At least they already have each other, she thought, smiling. Watching the way Damek would glance at Elthia at times before speaking, or the way she would calm him with a touch hadn't been as much as a shock to her as Damek had clearly thought it would be. She was glad for both of them, but especially for Elthia. She'd gotten the feeling before she left that the healer had an interest in her blue-haired friend.

"Is something up?"

Rika jerked her head up to stare at the girl standing beside her locker. She froze for a moment then shrugged. "Not too much. Some friends from out of town moved here."

Myra frowned. "No, that's not it. You're…It's like you're more here. Maybe it's because you haven't read anything today, but you feel different. You're looking up and at things more than off into space."

She blinked. "I guess I hadn't really noticed. But yeah, I can't imagine I'll be doing too much reading outside of what I have to for a long while, if ever."

"What? Why?"

Rika couldn't help the upward curve of her lips. "Because I can't imagine any book that could grab me the way the last one did."

"It must have been a good book."

"Sometimes it was. Other times it made me wish I'd never picked it up. But it's over, and I have other stuff to focus my attention on," she said, slipping her bag on and closing her locker.

"Like what?"

"Learning, among other things. How about you? What's new with you?"

Myra smiled as she followed Rika towards the doors. "Nothing new since Friday. Other than me finding an emulator that will finally let me play nearly all the Final Fantasies on the same one. I hate having to switch between them. Hey, if you're not heading to the library, do you want to come over and play a few games of MarioParty or Smash Bros.?"

"Sorry, I already have plans with my friends. Maybe this weekend you can come over and meet them. I think you'll like them."

Shading her eyes against the bright sunlight that lay outside the school's wood and glass doors, Myra said "If they're your friends, I'm sure I will."

Rika grinned as they moved through the throng. She kept one hand on her satchel in a habit she hadn't had time yet to break, same as the one that kept her eyes scanning the crowd, looking for threats.

They reached the halfway point down the concrete that led to the sidewalk, under the partial shade of the trees that lined the path, when Rika's vigilance was rewarded. A flash of bright red drew her eyes away from the dispersing students. Like he too, was trying to blend in, he'd changed his outfit to black pants and what looked like a black sweater from where she was standing. But the rest, the yellow eyes, wicked smirk, and red skin were the same.

Seeing he had her attention, Shetton dropped the arm he'd been waving. Rika scanned around him, knowing he was there, then-

Grinning, Rika skipped into a jog, only stopping when she stood in front of him. He'd at least half-listened to her, wearing jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, looking all the more out of place with the staff he held. "Ahisu, what are you doing here? I was just on my way home."

He glanced around then back to her. Rika followed his gaze before she remembered their conversation at the mall. "Oh! Did you want to see my school? You should have told me! I can probably get you a day pass or something to visit if you want. And I thought you understood when I told you that you can't carry your staff everywhere here."

Ahisu snorted before looking at something behind her. Rika turned, smiling when she saw Myra standing there, staring at the mage. "Sorry about running off like that. This is one of the people I was telling you about. Myra, this is Ahisu. Ahisu, this is my best friend Myra."

"Nice to meet you," the girl said.

He nodded before his eyes drifted back to the clumps of students scattered over the school's lawn. Twisting one strand of her dark red hair between her fingers, Myra looked to Rika, face wrinkled. She sighed. "Sorry about him. He's not much of a talker. And I've got to head back with him. He's still new to the area and I worry about him getting lost."

The mage jerked his head to stare at her. Rika met his gaze steadily, ignoring the way her cheeks heated up and her pulse began to hammer away "You nearly got lost in the mall, so it's not outside the realm of possibility."

For a long moment, he only held her eyes. Then he snorted faintly and went back to studying the students. Rika grinned at her triumph. "Well, I'll see you tomorrow, okay?" she told Myra.

Her friend nodded, still fiddling with her hair. Myra has barely taken two steps away when Rika felt a hand against her back gently push her forward. She whipped her head around to look at Ahisu. His usual mask was in place and she had to guess he'd just gotten bored with standing there. She led the way back to her apartment, trying to ignore the handprint she felt had been burned into her back from his touch.