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Ch 17 - Not According to the Plan

I woke up as I had been for the past few days. Aria had her body pressed against mine. She woke up just after me and smiled. "Good morning! Did you sleep well?"

"I slept very well. Did you?" We started the same way we always did.

"I always sleep well when I'm next to you." She got dressed and we both headed into the kitchen. She started cooking us breakfast.

"What are we doing on our date today?"

"I can't tell you that! It would ruin the surprise!" She was making omelets for us both.

"I can help you with that. You cook breakfast everyday, so I feel like I should help out every so often." I started beating the eggs. We made breakfast together and sat down to eat.

"How have you been enjoying your break so far?" Aria broke the silence.

"It's been fun so far. I'm a bit disappointed that I couldn't see my mom, but it's fine." I hadn't seen my mom in a while, so I was a bit sad that she wasn't there. "How has your break been so far?"

"I've had a lot of fun, especially with you here. Your mother was just like I remembered her as well. It's a shame that she couldn't stay for longer." We finished eating our breakfast and set out. We walked into town, holding hands the whole way. We stopped in front of a large clothing store. Aria pulled me inside and we went straight to the swimsuit section. She picked out a few swimsuits and went to the changing rooms. I stood outside and waited.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm waiting outside for you to get changed." What was she expecting me to be doing?

"Come in here!" Her hand shot out and grabbed my arm, and she pulled me inside the changing room.

"What are you doing! I can wait outside!"

"It's much faster if you wait in here. Plus, you see me naked almost everyday, it doesn't bother me." I blushed and looked away while she got changed. "You don't have to look away. I already told you that I don't mind."

"You may not mind, but it's really awkward for me. Imagine if I were changing and you were just sitting there, staring at me. If you want me to be in here, I will, but I'd rather not put myself in an awkward situation."

"I wouldn't mind staring at you, but if it's awkward for you, then you can look away if you want. I finished putting on the first one, so you can look now." I turned towards Aria and saw that she was wearing a red bikini. "Do you like it?"

"I think it looks great on you." She looked happy at my complement. We repeated this process of her getting changed and me saying that it looked great a few more times with other bikinis. I noticed that they all had one thing in common. "Why were they all red? Solid red, red with white stripes, red polka dots, red with frills… they were all red."

"I won't tell you, but you can probably find out if you look it up and research for a few minutes." That was an unusual answer, but it wouldn't do any good to keep asking her. She decided on the red bikini that had frills. She got a few more outfits and we left the store. We walked around the town for a bit, and stopped in front of a coffee shop. I looked at the sign and it read "Sunbucks Coffee." Wasn't this place supposed to have outrageously high priced drinks? "It's not quite time for lunch, but we can get a small snack here." Aria got a coffee and a chocolate chip muffin, while I got some tea and a croissant. We sat down at a table near the window.

"What have you been doing since you left?" Despite us seeing each seeing each other everyday for the past few days, we hadn't done much catching up.

"I went to school in the new city and made some friends, but we all stopped talking to each other this year. We don't hate each other, we just haven't talked since the school closed."

"If the school you went to closed, where will you be going after the break?"

"I was thinking that maybe I could go to the school you go to."

"My school is only for Keepers and Spirits. How would you get in?"

"I don't know yet, but I can't go anywhere else." What did she mean by that?

"Why can't you go anywhere else? I'm sure that they would all take you."

"I know that, I just can't go anywhere else. I'd rather not talk about it here. I can tell you later, but for now, all you need to know is that I have to go there."

"If you don't want to talk about it, it's fine. I won't force you to talk about it." I didn't want to pressure her or make her feel uncomfortable, so I dropped the topic entirely. "How do like the muffin?" It was a lame topic, but it was the first thing that I could think of. I wanted to change the topic as soon as possible, so the topic didn't matter much. It was clear that she recognized my attempt to make her feel more comfortable.

"It tastes good. How's your croissant?" She laughed a bit, likely at the stupidity of the conversation. I laughed as well.

"Sorry for making things so weird."

"No, it's fine. I appreciate the attempt to change the topic to something more comfortable for me." We finished our food and left. We were walking down the sidewalk when there was a loud explosion. "What was that?!" We looked over in the direction the noise came from, and saw a large, tree-like creature.

"It's a Wild Spirit! Stay here!" I rushed over to the scene. Luckily, ever since the time Erika attacked the town, I always carried my knife with me. I ran towards the Spirit, knife in hand, and plotted a course of attack. It noticed me sooner than I thought it would. Vines started coming out of the ground, but none of them hit me. I kept running, cutting any vines that sprung up in front of me. I couldn't think of a way to fight it. Cutting it wouldn't work. It was a tree, so it would be too hard to just slice through, especially with a knife like mine. Everyone else was running away, so I was likely the only Keeper here. Everyone had evacuated, so the tree's full attention was on me now. It launched branches at me while roots came out of the ground. All I could do was dodge. I looked around for anything I could use to damage it, but I didn't find anything useful. I wouldn't be able to run forever, so I needed to think of something quickly.

"Elryn! Are you insane?! You can't beat that thing!" I turned my head and saw Aria.

"What are you doing?! Run!" The tree noticed her as well, and a vine came out from right underneath her feet and wrapped around her. She yelled and I ran towards her. I was focused solely on saving her, so I didn't notice the vine that wrapped around my leg. I fell to the ground, my knife sliding across the ground so that I could no longer reach it. I was fully wrapped up, and I was unable to move. All of the air in my lungs escaped as I was squeezed by the vine. I was on the verge of blacking out when I felt power flowing into me. I had no clue what was happening, but it was the only option I had, so I closed my eyes and focused on this power.

"Elryn! Open your eyes! Don't die here!" Aria was yelling. I must have looked dead. I wanted to answer her, but I couldn't. I needed to focus. I concentrated and felt something metallic appear on my hand, specifically my right ring finger. It felt like a ring. Why would a ring appear on my hand? I didn't need a ring, I needed a weapon. Something like a small axe would be useful, but I couldn't do anything with a ring. As soon as I thought that, I felt the ring shake. Then, I felt something materialize in my hand. I flicked my wrist a bit, and I guess I hit the tree, because it released me from its grasp. I fell to the ground, and I saw that I had a small axe in my hand. I didn't question anything, I just ran towards the now unconscious Aria and cut her free. The axe was not nearly as large as Cecilia's, but it was doing its job just fine. I carried Aria over to a grassy area and put her down. I ran towards the tree and started attacking. The axe was proving to be very useful. I made many cuts along the trunk and cut some roots that were attacking me. After a bit more cutting, the tree disappeared in a flash of light. I fell to my knees, using the axe to keep myself from falling on my face. I had gotten bruises and cuts from the fight, and I was exhausted from all of the running.

"Elryn! Are you okay?" Aria rushed over to my side. "That was incredible!" She helped me stand up. "Do you need help walking?" She walked me over to a bench and we sat down. "Is that axe your Keeper weapon?" I was still holding the axe that I had used to fight the Wild Spirit.

"I don't know. I didn't have a weapon, but this might be it. When I was wrapped up, I felt a ring appear on my finger, and then I had this axe in my hand."

"You don't have a ring on your hand." I looked down and saw that she was right. I was holding the axe, but there was no ring.

"Where did it go? It was right on my finger." As I said that, the axe started glowing. The axe was gone now, but the ring was back. "Now it's back…"

"I don't know what it is, but it's a good thing that you have it." She hugged me tightly.

"What's this for?"

"You saved me. Thank you." I felt her lips touch mine for a quick second. She hugged me, and we were still for some time. I felt my shoulder getting wet.

"Aria, why are you crying?" I was looking at Aria's face, which was full of tears.

"Please, promise me something." She was talking between her sobs. "Promise me that you won't die and leave me alone." She continued crying.

"I won't die. I promise you that I won't die. You have to promise me something as well." I grew serious. "Promise me that you won't put yourself in danger either. I don't want you to get hurt." She nodded and pulled me close again. After a short while, everything calmed down. We both started to get up, but as soon as I stood, I fell straight to the ground.

"Are you alright? Let me help you." We walked back to the house while I was leaning on Aria's shoulder. It took the rest of the day because of my injuries, but we managed to get back. Everyone else was already asleep by the time we got back. "You need to clean those cuts. They've already been open for a while, so we need to clean them now, or they'll get infected." She walked me into the bathroom and started undressing me.

"I can wash myself. You don't need to do this for me." She was knocked unconscious by that Wild Spirit, so she must have been in a bit of pain as well.

"No, I want to make sure that all of the wounds are cleaned and dressed properly. Also, you will be sleeping in the bed tonight. I will sleep on the floor so that if you start bleeding again, I can help you." I knew that she was worried, but she was also hurt.

"That Spirit knocked you unconscious as well. It was squeezing you really tightly. I know that it must still hurt. Don't worry as much about me. Make sure you're okay first." Her face was filled with joy when she heard that.

"Fine, we can work something out, but let me take care of you first. Your injuries are much worse than mine." She finished undressing me, then undressed herself. I blushed and looked away. "After she washed me, she washed herself. She helped me get dressed and we went into her room. She helped me get in the bed, then got in on the other side. Tonight was different from all of the other nights. This time, she wasn't right next to me. She decided to stay on the opposite side of the bed to make sure she didn't accidentally aggravate my wounds. "If you need anything, don't hesitate to ask me." With those words, we both drifted to sleep.