Having broken three fingers last week, May struggled with putting on a T-shirt for about five minutes longer before giving in for something with gaping sides. They layered on a sweater that was the antithesis of both form fitting and mint condition, but given the Spring the – notably stone and drafty – dormitory wasn’t as chilly as it had been.In the hallway, Riddhi looked up from his current oral fixation to May pulling their door shut with their forearm and holding out a fresh liquorice root in their swaddled hand.
The ‘cheers’ he murmured was lost in the once-over Riddhi gave May and the jeans they had been wearing yesterday. “I’m here if you want help for that.” He had been, in the hall for about twenty minutes.
May shrugged, “I’m sure I’ll get frustrated enough in a couple of weeks for that.”
Battered, tasteless nub of an oral fixation discarded, the two headed down the hall with the liquorice root bouncing between Riddhi’s lips. May slung their right arm across Riddhi’s shoulders, wrist-end held in place by Riddhi’s fidgeting fingers.
Their walk to the courtyard was conducted in French. Riddhi’s Haitian accent still tripping up May whenever they weren’t listening well enough. The two did this because none of the ghosts here knew enough of the language to eavesdrop on what was notably a conversation about weather appropriate clothes, Riddhi’s embroidery progress, and May’s countdown before their fingers would be useable again.
“So you don’t think Shupov will let me spar today?” May asked, switching languages once they passed into the cobblestone area around a decrepit fountain with a collective of people with about as little evident purpose to being there as the two.
Riddhi almost laughed. Several people standing around did.
“Even your advantages aren’t going to outweigh screwing your hand up more,” he answered, and then fumbled the liquorice root that had launched itself from his mouth.
May’s advantages were their noncorporeal projection and their short arm, which no one here had yet to adapt to in a fight. Even the seasoned instructor Shupov, who hadn’t sparred against May beyond demonstrations, was easily thrown by the difference in leverage.
They did have to admit that even knowing they could manage it, fighting with broken fingers was incredibly arrogant. It was so easy to hit them, lean on them, go to fly the bird mid-taunt.
The two spent the wait looking over their surroundings, as though they hadn’t been here for months. A university built well before anyone standing around the out-of-use fountain was born, fed by private schools and upper class beneficiaries, the schoolgrounds were a museum piece of stone buildings designed by a dedicated architect pumped through a private school of their own time and with a fondness for castles. The gutters were old and rusty, the fountain piece was streaked with ample oxidation crying streaks into its dry pool, the grounds were now uneven after years of settling.
And it was full of ghosts.
After the barrier was up, Shupov had explained that the school had its own cemetery and that if she overheard speculations of ill opinions, she’d be shucking people outside of the barrier until she felt they had served their time-out.
May was pretty certain Shupov wouldn’t actually leave a defenceless person to the wilds, but they had seen Shupov do many things May hadn’t thought they would ever see anyone do. And while Riddhi hadn’t been around to see such things, Riddhi himself had run headfirst towards a manticore, tried to ‘talk it out’ first with a fae commune, and had scaled a building to get eye-to-eye with a giant. Things he didn’t think he’d do.
May had never done, nor planned to do any of these things. They had already done much more fargone things.
Which was perhaps why Riddhi and May got along and complemented each other so well. Also why they had created the habit to speak in French so as to not bring concerns to the ghosts that might ultimately lead to the entire group being driven from the sanctuary they had so hardwon.
May frowned at the stained fountain while Riddhi scanned the ivy-sprawled buildings surrounding them.
“We’d do fine,” Riddhi assured.
May blinked, took a moment to find the context, and then nodded slowly.
Between the two of them, they could make it. Make it for weeks in the wild, make it to the closest city, to the next sanctuary.
So after Shupov’s lecture for the day and May sequestered to practise projection, the two left.