192 The Difference between Ink and Shadow*
"Iah?" Kit asked cautiously as he helped with the dishes after breakfast.
Iah hummed in acknowledgement, waiting for him to continue.
"I'm worried about Sharli," Kit said.
Iah turned to look at Kit with an expectant expression, "What about her?"
"Well...she's not acting like she'll just get over this," Kit said.
"Get over what?" asked Iah.
Kit sighed, "You know what".
Iah paused, sighing as she looked at the sink full of half washed dishes, "She's stronger than she looks Kit, she'll pull through".
"Olly doesn't think-"
"Since when has Olly's opinion mattered?" asked Iah with a frown. Kit paused in surprise as he looked at her. Iah sighed, realising she had sounded too hostile, "Look, Kit, Olly seems like a nice enough young man, despite his quirks, but are you honestly saying that you'd believe his opinion - somebody you've known for less than a month - over Sharli? The woman who you've known since you were four?"
Kit sighed. Iah may have been right, but thanks to his connection with the Mist, he also knew that Olly had every right to be cautious, "I'm just saying, Iah. I think you should keep a close eye on her. When Mr Moonshadow came along she grew more and more attached to him, hanging on his every word. You can't say that you think she's fine now that he's left and we don't know his fate".
Iah sighed, knowing that the boy had a point, "Very well. I'll watch her. But I don't know what you expect me to do...I'm not a leader like she is and despite all these years of experience, I know I can't do what she does".
"I'm not asking you to," Kit said, "I just want you to consider the fact that Sharli's decision isn't the only one. That's what Mr Moonshadow wanted us to learn, wasn't it? That we are all our own person?"
Iah looked over at Kit and sighed, "You're too smart for your age, Kit. It's no wonder he stayed and taught you what he did even when the rest of us weren't useful to him beyond mere laborers".
Kit wanted to deny it, but he couldn't say for certain that she was wrong. After all, despite all he'd done for them, they hadn't known Mr Moonshadow all that long either.
Kit left the kitchen after he was done helping with the chores, and Olly waited for him outside of his workshop. He did this every day. Kit wasn't sure what he was trying to accomplish by waiting outside, and Olly didn't seem to be of a mind to divulge that information. Still, Kit had no problem with Olly sitting outside of the workshop, it was when Olly could see what Kit was doing that it went against the deal he'd made with Mr Moonshadow.
"I asked Iah to keep an eye on Sharli," Kit said.
Olly nodded, "I heard".
"The Mist?" asked Kit.
Olly shook his head, then pointed to the open kitchen door not a few metres away, "The Mist isn't the only one that speaks".
"Miss Iah isn't wrong," Olly sighed, "You haven't known me very long".
"But I don't understand what that has to do with trust," Olly admitted with a frustrated sigh, "Trust is a feeling, not a measure of time, so what does one have to do with the other?"
"Well...you build trust with a person the longer you know them," said Kit.
"Then why do some people trust people as soon as they meet them, and others trust only after years?" asked Olly.
Kit frowned, "Everyone is different. Some people you just...know you can trust, and others you feel you can't even after a long time".
"More time," Olly frowned, "You just described it with a feeling but then added the condition of time. If it is a feeling, what does time have to do with it?"
"Time can change the feeling though," argued Kit, "The more you discover about another will influence how you see them".
"How long did it take you to trust Mr Moonshadow?" asked Olly.
Kit frowned, "I..."
Olly's darting eyes settled on Kit for a moment before moving off again, "The Mist says it was less than a day. How long to trust Miss Sharli and Miss Iah?"
Kit frowned, scratching his head, "I don't remember".
"The Mist says it was several months before you spoke to them," Olly stated, "What about me? How long did it take you to trust me?"
"Can't the Mist tell you?" asked Kit.
Olly gave a goofy grin, "Yes".
He offered no further answer, so Kit sighed, "Fine, yes, I trust you. Which some people might think is unsettling but I shouldn't let that influence me because the Mist never lies and the Mist happens to make me feel that you are trustworthy and that I should-"
Olly placed a hand on Kit's shoulder, "You're a good friend, Kit".
Kit paused and stared back at Olly's smiling face for a moment before the older boy turned and seemed distracted by something the Mist had said to him.
Kit waited a moment, then opened the door to the warehouse, pausing in the threshold, "You're a good friend too". Then Kit stepped through and closed the door behind him before he could hear an answer.
On the chair beside the door, Olly pulled up his legs to hug his knees to his chest as he smiled.
"I'm a good friend".
Olly wasn't able to wipe the smile from his face for the rest of the day. He smiled as he drew the circle within a circle, moving around the Ruin to find quiet spots some of the time and loud spots the rest. The other inhabitants ignored him, assuming that he was just going through one of his episodes. He'd done it a few times, just sat and drawn the Protection Rune over and over on endless pieces of paper. It was a good thing that Kit had plenty placed aside to practice his own drawing. They'd found it was better to leave him alone as the first time that they'd tried to pry him from the task he'd screamed until they'd left him alone with his charcoal and paper.
It'd been the only time during his stay that Kit had been seconds away from kicking him out of the Ruin.
It wasn't until the early evening that Kit emerged from the work room again. He found Olly in the same spot he'd left him, drawing the rune over and over. The only indication he had that Olly had moved was the charcoal and paper that occupied him which he hadn't possessed that morning.
Kit sighed. Maybe he should take Olly to Miss Falla. After all, Olly was clearly a good candidate, and Kit believed that at least for the moment - and especially under the blood contract - Olly wouldn't divulge any sensitive information. His motives were purely selfish.
Olly moved so quickly it scared Kit. He leaped out of his seat and slapped a hand over Kit's mouth. Kit's eyes widened as he grabbed at Olly's surprisingly strong grip. Then Olly placed a finger to his lips, and then pointed at the opposite end of the hallway before guiding Kit forward.
Kit frowned. What? What was happening? He wanted to ask but Olly wasn't letting up his grip on Kit's mouth.
After a few silent seconds, they reached the far end of the hall and ducked around the doorway to peer into the front room, the currently empty show room. Olly had crouched down with Kit, and he slowly pointed out of the window at the building on the opposite side of the street. Then, as he released Kit slowly he spoke a single word.
Kit frowned at the somewhat familiar term. Where had he heard that before?
He turned to look at where Olly pointed, knowing after interacting with Olly that trying to observe the Mist rather than just what ordinary humans could see was a faster way to get Olly's random whims.
Kit peered through the shop window, and focused on a dark, sludge-like substance in the shadow of the opposite building. His first thought was a shadow magician like him, but it didn't feel like him at all. It also didn't feel like Mr Moonshadow, who's shadow magic was more bloodthirsty. No, this magic was...like liquid shadow. Ink.
Inktress, the one who'd hurt Mr Moonshadow.
Kit's gaze narrowed, "She hurt Mr Moonshadow".
Kit went to stand but Olly caught his arm, "You're not strong en-"
Kit pulled out of Olly's grip and drew the shadows around him. The Evening light had made them longer, darker, and it was easier for him to call on them as he sent them across the street, stabbing into the ink. He withdrew just as quickly, but the ink seemed to attach itself to his shadows, invading and hijacking them. He recoiled, trying to bring back his power. He saw the ink seem to mold itself into the form of a woman with dark hair and eyes. Then just as quickly as she formed, she seemed to splatter against a surface just beyond the window. Like a split bottle of ink.
Kit breathed heavily in his fear as he watched the woman pull back from the surface of whatever she had hit, forming once more as she stared vengefully at the thing that had stopped her advance and then through it at Kit and Olly. Then she dove back towards the shadows.
Kit watched until her presence disappeared, then he turned to Olly, "How did she...?"
Olly pointed to the sheets of paper with the protection charm written on it scattered randomly through the shop.
"I asked, the Mist answered".
Kit, whose ability to articulate what he knew about the Mist was rudimentary, knew that this was significant. The Mist has responded to a rune that was not attached to a vessel that contained it. The rune had been on a plain piece of paper, though the intention had clearly been imbued within the rune.
"I think you should meet Miss Falla," Kit said.