It was cold. It was cold, dark, and Seira could only see a mirror. Or a card, a horizontal gleaming space, hovering underneath her and shining until she couldn't see the darkness anymore.
Seira was flooded with the satisfying icy rush of the star card. There wasn't any battle, and this wasn't the battlefield.
It was a card, but it was also a mirror. Seira couldn't see her reflection, but she could feel it, feel the echo of magic beat through her heart. The presence of energy was warming, but in the sense of kinship, the pleasantness of having incorporeal company. Seira's magic refracted and fragmented beyond her thoughts and intentions, but it was calm and slow, like the journey of a shooting star in the night sky relative to the earth.
Ever since Seira was locked in herself, her magic sealed from daemonia and unable to help Akari fight, Seira had been able to do this. That brief time of magic impotency left Seira restless, and she masked her fidgeting until it started to hum inside her. Seira felt helpless and twitchy, and she was unable to sleep, tossing and turning to channel the brimming impatience. The lapses of consciousness didn't feel like true sleep, and after Seira gained awareness in one session, she realized she was dreaming.
The infinite space didn't actually feel like a dream. Seira could control her body, but magic came, too. Magic came effortlessly, and it continued uselessly into space. It felt vague, some of the arrows bending and concentrating into arching beams instead of remaining in straight shapes.
Seira woke up that first night feeling cold. It wasn't unpleasant, but there was this overwhelming awareness of cool, liquid adrenaline. The sensation washed away, and Seira finally rested.
Seira was trapped in her thoughts afterward. She tried to suspend her attention while she was awake, but the feeling of magic bouncing around didn't return. It only came back when she fell asleep.
The experience went forgotten when her magic returned, in the sense of being able to use it. Seira was so relieved that the dreams slipped her mind.
Their branch of Sefiro Fiore resumed activity, and Seira set herself to work again, immersing herself in fighting. On the battlefield, Seira began to feel more fluid in her movements, aware of the pull in her arms and the angle of her hands drawing an arrow. Seira couldn't describe it in any way other than icy, a wave of calm concentration brightening her focus, bright like a star, like the reflection of the mirror in herself.
Akari still struggled with hearing the voices of the daemonia. She didn't halt with wide eyes the way she used to, but she looked pained. Burdened with the last words of a dying victim, Akari acknowledged it solemnly, or sometimes with a gentle nod and a murmur of consolation.
Seira didn't want to hear the voices. She kept from touching Akari in a fight, kept her hands from Akari and kept her distance. Seira's heightened focus left her more able to concentrate on multiple things at once, such as being mindful of Akari's location along with the daemonia's at the same time. It felt like her mind expanded, an imitation of the dream Seira couldn't remember.
Akari frowned when she noticed the purposeful distance. She might have noticed the ease of maintaining the distance even more, the intelligent footwork separate from Seira's arrow handling.
"Seira, you've been avoiding me," Akari said. They weren't on the battlefield, so Seira didn't find a reason to dodge her touch in that moment.
Seira froze at the actual contact. Akari's hand sent the rippling sensation of something bright, almost ice but not. Not just any star, but the sun, tame fire with a flash of intensity. Snow on a winter day, warm ruddy cheeks from body heat in frigid air, melting ice, a hearth, glaciers, etching in the ice, ice ice ice but hot warm ice melting for spring,
Seira snapped her arm away. "What did you just do?"
Akari's expression carved more confusion through Seira. "Nothing? I didn't do anything."
"You didn't feel anything?"
Seira backed away, forehead wrinkling with a headache.
That night, Seira was trapped in a dream again, a vivid dreamspace that echoed with magic. Seira didn't know what she was walking on, but she walked across the seemingly invisible surface, taking the time to dig through the catalog of her memory and look at her surroundings with growing familiarity. There weren't any special landmarks, nothing stable or rigid, but the sparkle of ice and the heaviness of vast silence felt the same.
Seira cycled through the dreams several times before she thought to ask for help. She approached Etia and explained the problem, the dreams and the stronger flexibility of her magic.
Etia stared at Seira. "Have you ever heard of a lucid dream before?" she asked.
Seira shook her head. "No."
Etia walked to her desk and took a seat. "Lucid dreaming is being aware of your dream and controlling it as if you're awake. I've never…heard of magic coinciding with it, though." Etia sighed. "Then again, so many new things have happened with magic lately that I'm not sure. Akari can speak with daemonia, and Ginka's still alive after killing her daemonia counterpart. It's also possible that something enabled your magic to evolve."
Seira didn't sit. She walked slowly up to the desk, listening instead of hurrying. "Magic can evolve?"
Etia nodded. "Out of desperation, sometimes, magic can evolve. Magic is alive with energy in the same way as natural phenomena. Trap magic into a corner, and something can happen."
Seira turned her wrist over, her other hand circling it, fingers skimming where Luna bit her as a daemona-turned wolf. Magic needed an outlet, Seira thought.
It made sense, in a lot of ways. Forcing her magic to overcome the daemonia block shaped it into something new, as well as made it stronger.
Seira used to be strict in her acknowledgement of her power. Not as welcoming, facing a battle with the regimented skill she cultivated alongside her disciplined mentality. Strike. Shoot. Strike. Shoot. Seira's practice routine seeped into her frozen paradigm of what magic was supposed to be, a process instead of an extended sense of self. Seira remembered her original misplaced detachment well.
No one could help her foster the new deviation in her abilities. Seira spent time alone, meditating with as much success as she had before, when she tried to repeat the lucid magic while awake.
In the middle of battle, Seira still tried to avoid Akari. Seira's focus dropped once, when Akari called her name in warning. Despite Seira's new awareness, she still couldn't accomplish 360 degree vision, and she bumped her arm into Akari's hand.
A voice shot across the horizon of Seira's mind. More than a voice, a light, clouding Seira's vision and then fragmenting the surroundings until Seira felt disoriented in space. There was a shift of energy, fragments slotting back together, and when Seira looked up, she saw the daemonia shimmering in blue.
Akari moved to pull away, but Seira swiveled her hand to clamp onto Akari's, maintaining the connection. Tightening the hold brought clarity to Seira's sight, and she recognized the same dreamspace, the same energetic reverberations and effortless streams of magic.
The voice in the daemonia was no longer warbled, was no longer a misshapen tone cracking the air. Seira could hear them with neat detail, as if the victim was standing in front of her.
"Help me, I'm scared!"
The daemonia's movements became sluggish, and the other girls looked like a blur of slow motion. Seira moved her arm, and it followed through its path at an ordinary speed.
Seira considered attacking. The voice didn't slow her down with regret and remorse the way it did for Akari, so Seira didn't know how to do anything in this state; she never tried to strike a target here before. And with her hand in Akari's, Seira was afraid that this was only possible because of Akari's own anomaly, her connection to the daemonia. Seira couldn't remove her hand to shoot.
Seira withdrew an arrow and threw it, without a bow to launch it. Seira didn't expect it to go far, but it continued on, almost floating on its trajectory. It wasn't a direct hit--it struck a wayward appendage--but the daemonia flailed around, still in slow motion.
A swoop of disorienting momentum shook Seira, and everything rushed back into place at full speed. Seira's hand slipped from Akari, and the veil of the dream fell away. The girls braked at the sight of the daemonia.
It was still mostly intact, but the lone arrow inflicted irreparable damage. The area around it looked dead, blue and translucent, and it wasn't moving.
"What happened to it?" Ginka asked.
"I think something…wait, look." Luna pointed at the arrow lodged in the daemonia.
There wasn't anything they could do about that, so they resumed fighting, attacking the same way as before. The daemonia was defeated easily due to its incapacitation, and afterward, Seira approached the group.
"I'm sorry I didn't say it before," Seira said, scratching her head with quiet sheepishness.
"It's alright," Ginka said. "You sound confused about it. I don't blame you for not bringing it up."
"I don't think I get it either." Luna gave a smile.
Akari glanced at her hand, the one Seira held in the middle of the battle. Seira saw her extend her fingers and curl them in again.
"Before, you could only hear the daemonia when you were touching me. Maybe something else happened this time…"
Seira's mouth opened and closed. She didn't think about Akari's power before, but now she realized that the combination could have done that.
"Something else… Something new?" Ginka asked. Her eyes lit up. "If that can do that to the daemonia, then can it help save people from them?"
Luna and Ginka leaned over excitedly, and Akari's arm fell around Seira's shoulders.
"That would be great," Luna said.
The Tendo sisters raised their hands. "We can do some tests to see if that's possible," Itsuki said.
Seira's mouth twitched, a grudging smile flickering on her lips.