We moved on, teleporting to the healing spring, which would allow us to return to Dechi country when Ylva was rejuvenated. The pools were as we’d left them, clear and pristine, surrounded by greenery that was simply unnatural to find after winter had set in as it had. I knelt down and took a sip of the spring's warm waters. The sick feeling in my stomach left, and I felt strangely guilty for it. After we had both drunk, Ylva asked to see the cracked canteen.
“I have an idea,” she said.
“By all means.”
Carrying it with her, she walked a little ways off to a tree with broad, verdant leaves. She then proceeded to take off her pack, and I saw that she’d stored her old, tattered dress in there. She took a strip from it, and I watched as she tied the strip to keep a couple of leaves wrapped around the canteen to seal the hole. I was certainly impressed with her resourcefulness. I had thought it before, and I thought it again: this woman was full of surprises.
She shook the vessel to test her patch job. “Well it’s not perfect, but it ought to keep at least some water in for a couple of days at a time.” She looked over at me and I nodded in approval.
“Thanks.” I had taken my soaked-through boots off to warm my chilled feet in the heated water. My paws were rarely bothered by the cold. And my paws didn’t look so strange. I thought Ylva saw me wiggling my toes in disapproval as she sat next to me, slipping off her own boots and dipping her feet in next to mine.
“Do you think they look strange? Feet in this form?” she asked.
“Well, different… alright, yes. Strange.”
She smiled at my response. At first I thought she was making fun of me, but then I thought I saw something else in her eyes. I looked away.
“I don’t blame you at all. I actually think you’re getting on quite well, considering.” She paused before continuing. “I’m sorry I was so harsh with you when we first met. I was just upset, I suppose, and I was taking it out on you. Your presumably human side, especially.”
“Well, there’s no excuse for how I acted. I’ve begun to sympathize with your point of view, about there being good and bad people of all races. So I’ve resolved to change the way I treat others. Even so, I think I’ll always be a bit pushy,” she smiled.
I grinned, looking back down at our feet, marvelling at how much daintier hers were. I refocused my thoughts. “So, I guess we’d better get back to our search,” I said, rising and putting my boots back on.
“Actually, if you’re feeling up to it, I was thinking that this might be a great place to do some of that mage training you said you wanted.”
“Teleportation? Absolutely! I can use it to look for Oli. After I’ve helped you, of course.”
“Actually, there are other skills you need to learn first. We’ll work you up to teleportation, but you have to crawl before you can walk. And the first step is blast hitting, otherwise known as blast striking.”
I took a heavy, frustrated breath. “Alright. What the hell is blast hitting?”
“This.” She stepped confidently up to a large stone bordering the spring and quickly turned to her side to perform a high kick, something her dress would barely allow. To my disbelief, she had blown a dent the diameter of a small bush and the depth of a bucket into its face. Chips of rubble had crumbled to the ground, some of which had practically been reduced to dust. There wasn’t so much as a scuff mark on her boot as she looked back at me, flashing her teeth in glee at my expression. “It of course takes a lot of time and effort to do this much damage with a single blow, but I’ll endeavor to teach you. Here at the beginning, it will hurt. Hence the proximity to the healing spring.”
I felt a thrill of excitement rise up in my chest. “Alright, let’s do this!” I jogged up to the same stone, finding a spot on its face where it was yet to take damage. “What do I do?”
Ylva seemed amused by my willingness. “Start with a punch; I’ve seen your success with those. And I wasn’t going to start you on the rock… but if you insist. For starters, just focus on the rock’s surface. Seek out a potential weak spot. Picture your arm going straight through it, and don’t hold back. Remember, magic flows through your veins. Don’t fight it, and it’ll come naturally. Well,” she cocked her head slightly, “at least for fullbloods.”
I focused, found an area where the rock looked easy to crack, and sent my fist forward… with slight hesitation. After I landed a hit, my hand recoiled with a speed I didn’t know I had. I brought my hand out again to look at it, and some of my fingers were at impossible angles; I was horrified. Ylva brought the canteen to my lips just as they were opening to let out a shriek. I choked a little on the water at first, but it was a mere moment before my joints snapped back into place and the pain dwindled away.
“Alright, maybe starting on the rock wasn’t such a good idea,” I gasped. “But I don’t want to beat up these trees, either. What else is there? The ground, perhaps?”
Ylva nodded, satisfied. “Well, you could strike the water. Would that be more to your liking?”
My muscles relaxed in gratitude. “Yes, please.”