We decided to practice at night. Only made sense. We still had to learn to read and write too. Even so, I read the section ahead of time during short breaks inbetween serving that night. Part of it was next to Derrick, who invited me to sit with him during a lull so he could make sure that I was all well again. It was probably rude to read while next to someone asking how you were, but Derrick didn’t seem to mind as his eyes crinkled with a smile anyways.
Apparently, the best way for one to practice mind magic was simply to have someone close to them, who knew their mind well and preferably had a form of divine magic, to be their practice dummy.
“Gee, he totally planned this out. Giving me a choice of magic my butt,” I said to myself.
“Uh, god. Getting us two together. You know, divine providence.” Literally. That was okay to say, right?
“Yeah, I guess. Divine magic is super rare. Healing magic especially. And I can see why it’s better for your practice partner to have either healing or dar—mind magic.”
“Yeah. Don’t you feel your magic in, like, hot threads?”
I nodded. “I can feel yours too, though yours are all jerky and squiggly.”
“Yeah. Yours are more smooth. Like silk strands,” he said, his mood taking a jump up. “Huh. We might actually be able to do this. If you can recognize my magic in your mind, you’ll know what’s me and what’s you.”
“What, were you afraid I’d become your mind slave or something? You just said it’s easy to block you if I know you’re using the magic.”
The happy expression turned sour.
“I told you, I haven’t done that much with my magic. For all I know, that could happen by accident.”
“Well the book says that an elimination of one’s conscious choice is impossible for all but the strongest magicians because it requires taking hold of and managing a ton of neural connections. It’s basically asking your own brain to function for two. So even if you did somehow became buff enough do it, you’d only be able to manage it for a few minutes at most before your own brain got shot and theirs kicked back into gear.”
“…you say the strangest words, Lilly. You know that? Sometimes I can barely understand you.”
“Then why don’t we try doing that for our first practice then? You taping into my vocabulary or something.”
He blanched. “I-I wouldn’t even know where to start.”
“Well, if I’m remembering correctly, your language center of your brain is in your…what, right temporal lobe?” I pointed in the vague direction on my scalp, then leaned forward. “Come on, Gussy, go for it!”
Of course, he reflexively flinched back. “You’re not sane, you know that?”
“Hut to, hut to, I’m not going to stay bent like this forever, short stuff.”
“There’s no need to insult me!” Puffing, he straightened, rolled his shoulders, shook his hands, then, obviously trying not to show his nerves, reached for my head.
Needless to say, he didn’t find some nodule housing my slang bank. Most of it was just some sort of telepathic communication where I teased him through my thoughts through his hands and he responded back with snippy remarks aloud.
“Come on, I’m even sleepy,” I said out loud at some point, because I was. It’d been my usual routine to pass out the moment I was cleaned up from work. “Be brave, dig a little deeper.”
“This is your mind we’re talking about, dummy. Don’t you feel invaded in the slightest?”
“Maybe, if I was actually invaded. I don’t think any of my deep dark secrets are going to be world changing.” Besides, if Nehcor had wanted me to keep the secrets he did tell me not to shout to the world away from Gus, he wouldn’t have given Gus mind magic and me a book on how to train it. “You’ve sort of already seen the worst of me as it is.”
“If that’s the worst of you…” he shook his head. “Forget it, I’m going to try something else.”
My answer came as a vision came forth from the tendrils of magic in my mind. It was the strangest thing, like dreaming with my eyes open, so I could see Gus with his silver lashes fanned against his cheeks in concentration even as I saw the image in my mind.
It was of a young woman in a pink dress with a leather waistcoat and poofy, white bodice like the top of a man’s undershirt. It flattered her shoulders, and drew attention to the tendrils of auburn hair that had escaped the tight bun on her head to stick to her long neck from a light dust of sweat. She laughed at something a man at a table said in the common room of the inn and didn’t see how the man’s knees had jumped at the sound.
Is that me? I thought.
“Surprised?” he asked.
Well, yeah. It wasn’t like there was a mirror in the inn that I knew of. I think there was one in Milly’s room, but I hadn’t had any need for it. And I hadn’t been all there when I’d stood in front of the mirror at the dress shop. And if I had, the attention would have been to my skirts.
Even if I had more mirrors, it was completely different seeing yourself through someone else’s eyes.
“Watch,” he said.
Suddenly, the pink skirts flew up, turning into rosy pink feathers of a giant chicken’s rear, revealing scaly chicken legs underneath rather than my own.
“Hey!” I squawked.
He let go of the image and laughed.
“Chicken butt,” he chortled.
“You’re such a child!”
But I couldn’t be too angry. Because Gus, for the first time, and so soon after seeing him so distressed and wailing into my lap, was laughing, not to mention acting his age.
We went to bed mentally exhausted, but with smiles on our lips.