September 19, 2016 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
“Class,” Enrie agreed. She took Saydrie’s offered hand, bowed to both women much as he had, and waited the half-second for Taikie to do the same before they strolled out of there.
Holding Saydrie’s hand let her control the pace to that stroll; she was pretty sure if she hadn’t been, they’d have been running. She waited until they were well out of there before she whispered “what’s wrong?”
“You can’t feel it? Something is just… well, wrong, out of tune, with her, the strange one. Something is… she is not singing with the Three.”
Taikie came to a stop. “Say that again? No, wait, say it in Bitrani, please.”
“What?” Enrie frowned. Taikie didn’t speak Bitrani.
Saydrie repeated his sentence in Bitrani. Taiki nodded firmly, not smiling but still somehow looking satisfied. “I thought so. There’s an old word in engineering texts, it’s another word for aether. It comes from a Bitrani phrase…”
“Oh, that means singing with the Three?” Enrie nodded, but then felt herself frowning. “Wait, so you’re saying that…” it seemed like a bad idea to say her name, “…her aether is wrong somehow? Or… missing? Wait! Saydrie can sense aether flows? Humanic aether?”
“…Which isn’t even supposed to exist,” Taikie pointed out triumphantly.
Saydrie was looking back and forth between the two of them uncertainly. “Yes? That is, I thought everyone could, and that’s part of why we thought Instructor Pelnyen was being so silly? I can sense other flows, too, but sensing humanic aether is the easiest. It — well, it swirls everywhere.”
Enrie thought she might be staring at him. A glance at Taikie suggested that she definitely was staring. Enrie coughed. “That’s… Wow. I’ve never been able to sense any sort of aether.”
“That’s why, when our monks go to meditate, they find places as far from other people as possible. The sound of the Three is much louder when you don’t have the noise of people all around you. Mountaintops,” Saydrie added thoughtfully, “those are supposed to be the best. Or way out in the middle of the ocean.”
“…Saydrie can hear humanic aether,” Taikie mused slowly. “Saydrie, you can…”
Enrie cut her off apologetically. “Taikie… later? I hope? It’s just that… what did you mean, she wasn’t connected with the Three?”
“Singing with the Three. Sometimes, people who are touched in the head, their aether is wrong. Sometimes you end up with the ones who can’t deal with other people, or who can’t follow the rules? Sometimes they sound wrong, feel wrong, too.” Saydrie shrugged uncomfortably. “I don’t know what it is with her, with Lirnilalie,” his voice dropped down to a whisper, “but it’s really unpleasant to be anywhere near her.”
“That…” Enrie considered. “That’s really useful information.”
She had no idea what she was going to do with that information yet. She had a bag full of notes about the treaty. She had two enemies, one of who was wrong-in-the-aether, the other one of whom was also the mother of a school rival. She wasn’t going to convince Instructor Pelnyen that humanic aether existed by bringing Saydrie as proof, especially not now. She had nothing to gloat about. Still, she wanted to hug Saydrie.