Anna let the young duck formed entirely of purified water fall back into the basin it had come from. For effect, she added a small quack. Aelvyn nodded approvingly, glad that she was showing initiative at last.
“I don’t see the point in this,” she said to Aelvyn. “I mean, how is this going to help me defeat the Celryn?” She was tired and discouraged from the two long days of training that had followed her parents’ death, and felt as though she had not slept in a month.
“You need something to take your mind off this great loss,” Aelvyn had said to her, but it felt to Anna that really he was trying to make her forget, and she did not want to forget. She wanted her parents’ sacrifice to be remembered, which was the very least that they deserved.
“It is helping you, Anna, because until you can learn to control your power, you will not be able to use them to fight.” The old ghost sighed. Anna, though she was by far the most gifted pupil he’d had, possessed the shortest attention span of anyone he had ever met, and she got bored exceedingly easily. It never ceased to amaze him what would catch her attention.
“I know,” said Anna, looking up and meeting his eyes, because inside she did know. “It was a rhetorical question.” It wasn’t, and she knew that he knew that too.
“I can tell that the taming of the Elements is not exactly what you would like to be doing right now,” said Aelvyn at last, tearing his eyes away from her own dark brown ones. “Though it goes against my principles, I will give in and move onto teaching you how to use these skills to fight.” Anna’s eyes gleamed.
“You don’t believe in fighting?” she said curiously.
“You said that it went against your principles. I was just wondering what these principles were…”
“It’s not that I don’t believe in fighting,” Aelvyn told her. “I know that in some circumstances - like the current ones - it is necessary, even though it may not be pleasant. But I do not believe in teaching things to students that they are not ready to learn. It can do more harm than good, in the end.” Anna stuck out her lower lip petulantly.
“I am ready,” she said, and her voice was so stubborn that Aelvyn almost laughed.
“That’s as may be, but are your powers?” questioned Aelvyn with a distant smile. “You see, I have my reasons for not thinking my pupils are ready, and I am usually right. But you are strong, and I think you can cope.” Anna did not reply, for she was deep in thought.
“However, as you probably … er … have noticed, I am a ghost.” Anna looked up at Aelvyn suddenly.
“Of course,” she said. “What has that got to do with anything?” Aelvyn blushed, as much as it is possible for a ghost to blush, and looked away.
“Well, my … er … ectoplasm needs to rest. That is, I’ll start to dissolve at any moment unless it gets a moment to return to its original form.”
Anna’s face puckered in confusion. “Oh.”
“Which means,” Aelvyn said kindly, sensing her incomprehension, “that I will have to leave you for a few hours, and return to the spiritual plane.”
Anna nodded. “Okay. I think I can manage,” she added, with an ironic smile.
“On my return we will begin to learn to fight. For now, though, I think you need to rest, because it is hard work, this training.” Aelvyn laid his hand on her arm again, and then appeared to shimmer. His form became liquid at the edges, and then vanished with a sharp pop that made Anna jump.