“How are you doing?” Lisa asked awkwardly.
Raven looked at the older girl and then sighed. “Not feeling completely hopeless.”
The girl slapped her on the back. “There you go. I know this place seems like a prison, but it’s not as bad as you think.”
Raven gave her a doubtful look.
“Hey, I’m not just spewing bullshit. I’m talking from experience,” Lisa said as she glided down the hall like a queen, greeting all the girls as she went.
Raven still couldn’t wrap her mind around the almost elegant and ethereal look of Lisa, compared to the harsh way she talked. It was like two different people inhabiting the same body. Raven snorted to herself at that thought. After all, she was the crazy person in this situation.
She still wasn’t sure what to make of Tick Tock. He talked about the impossible, accessing her powers even with a suppressor on, but was he telling the truth or was she falling into a delusion? But something about the whole conversation felt real. It didn’t feel like it had in the Awakening dreamscape. And didn’t Tick Tock say that this was the beginning? Maybe this was a way of her power manifesting itself to teach her. She sighed. Now, even to her, this was sounding crazy. She would have to wait and see.
“Hey! You all right back there?” Lisa asked, turning around to look at Raven. She had stopped at a set of double doors.
Raven nodded and hurried to catch up with her roommate.
Lisa looked her over, her gaze scrutinizing, and then pushed the doors open. Immediately the loud murmur of lots of people talking filled the air. Raven stepped inside the cafeteria and looked around in surprise. Everyone was intermingling, talking and laughing as they ate. It wasn’t just the girls, but the boys were there too.
Lisa must have seen her surprise because she reached out and squeezed her shoulder. “See, not all bad. Mealtimes are pretty much the only time we get to hang with the guys. Don’t take it for granted though.”
Raven looked at Lisa questioningly, but the girl was already moving onto something else. She pointed to a line where several students were getting their food. Surprisingly, the area was sleek and the servers seemed almost professional.
“I’ll be going over there,” she said and then she pointed to another line. This one had more students cluster together and the food stations looked a bit more run down. The servers looked bored and overworked. “You’ll be over there.”
“What?” Raven asked.
“Sponsor,” Lisa said, smiling and waved. Raven sighed and then got in line.
The wait took forever and the food was dried up corn with a piece of chicken that looked like it had been microwaved to hell and back. She twisted up her face at the food. The only thing that looked halfway decent was the carton of chocolate milk she managed to grab. She looked around the cafeteria, noticing everyone clustered together in their own groups. She felt a mixture of anxiety and relief. Lisa might have thought she was excited to see the boys mixed with the girls, but it wasn’t that. It was just nice to see that at least the cafeteria was like any other school cafeteria. Of course, it didn’t make finding a way to fit in any easier.
She twisted her head, trying to see where Lisa might be sitting when familiar teal hair caught her attention. Ethan noticed her at the same time and waved his hand, beckoning to her. Raven walked over to where Ethan sat with two other students.
“Raven! I see you managed to make it this far. Please, join me,” he said, patting the space next to him.
“Thank you,” Raven said, sliding onto the bench.
He pointed to the two students sitting across from him. “Ricky and Jessica.”
Raven waved at the two. The pair ignored her.
“Okay then,” Raven said.
Ethan waved his hand, dismissively. “Ignore them. They’re stuck up.”
Raven glanced at the pair to see what they thought of what Ethan said, but they kept talking among each other like she wasn’t there. Raven shifted in her seat awkwardly.
“So tell me. Is it true that Lisa sent Patrice flying?” Ethan said, excitedly.
“Patrice?” She looked at him confused when it dawned on her he must have meant the girl Raven had seen get knocked into the wall. “Oh! Wait, is she okay?”
Ethan practically chortled. “So she did it. That girl has been asking for an ass whooping for weeks.” He seemed way too excited.
Raven’s stare must have suggested that, but Ethan stabbed his fork into a piece of beef tenderloin. “Don’t look at me like that. She’s fine. Nothing Old BB couldn’t handle. Of course, she must have been in so much pain.” Ethan cackled.
“Right,” Raven said.
Ethan slid a piece of beef into his mouth. It looked delicious. Raven looked down at her dried corn, reluctantly choking a bite down.
“Ah, sometimes I wish I awakened with super strength. That would have been awesome,” Ethan said wistfully.
Raven looked at him curiously. She wanted to ask what his Core magic was, but at the same time, that would invite him to ask her. She really didn’t want to talk about her Core magic.
Ethan must have caught her curious look because he flashed her a knowing smile. “You want to see?”
He didn’t wait for her to answer. Instead, he grabbed his cup of soda and held it up. Then he let the cup go. Instead of crashing down, the cup stuck to his palm. Then he shoved his plate off his tray and slapped his hand against the tray. He lifted his palm and the tray stuck to his hand. Across from them, Jessica rolled her eyes.
“So you can make things stick to you?” Raven asked, hesitantly.
“Yes, but that’s not even the best part,” Ethan said excitedly and let the tray fall to the table with a clatter. He plucked the cup off his hand, setting it down. Then he grabbed Raven and tugged her out of her seat.
He led her to the nearest wall and gave her a wink. “Watch this.” Ethan pressed his hands against the wall and then very carefully began to climb up the wall. Raven’s eyes widened as she watched him go up higher and higher.
“So I see you’re with our little lizard,” Lisa said, making her way towards Raven.
“I prefer chameleon,” Ethan called down and as if to demonstrate, Ethan’s entire body, including his clothes, shifted to look like part of the wall.
Raven’s eyes widened. “That’s amazing.”
“At least someone appreciates my awesomeness.” The camouflage flickered and faded out. “I’m still working on that.”
Raven and Lisa giggled.
Ethan climbed down, hopping in front of them. “Tada!”
Raven clapped her hands. “So, is the camouflage your Illusion magic?”
Ethan nodded. “I’m getting better at it. If I concentrate I can hold it for three minutes, but it still flickers out from time to time.”
Raven shook her head. “I can’t believe you’re allowed to use both Core and Illusion magic.”
Ethan raised an eyebrow and looked at Lisa. “Hey, you didn’t share?”
“I was busy, okay?” Lisa said. “Principal Kase wanted to know what happened with Patrice. She was this close to giving me a penalty.”
Raven looked between the two, confused. “Share?”
Lisa grinned and then held out her arm. Before Raven’s eyes, her arm turned into stone. It covered part of her body, before fading away. “I call it stone skin. Still working on it. I started training on it last week.”
Raven was a little stunned. Being able to use Illusion magic wasn’t a small thing since it required a permit, but both of them were using it, even training in it. “Are all students that get sponsored allowed to use Illusion magic?”
Ethan shook his head. “No. Only a few of us got picked to use the Advanced stabilizers.”
“Yeah, I practically had to beg my sponsor to put me on the list,” Lisa said. “I think they were scared I would break it.”
Ethan leaned into Raven. “Lisa sometimes has trouble controlling her strength.”
“Telling my secrets, Ethan?” Lisa said, laughing.
Ethan laughed. “It’s not a secret.”
Lisa laughed harder and slapped her hand on Ethan’s back. Ethan was sent flying to the ground with a crash.
Raven jumped back.
Ethan grumbled and pushed himself up. “What the hell, Lisa?”
Lisa shrugged and gave Ethan a feral grin. “Sorry, I just can’t seem to control my own strength.”
Raven covered her mouth, trying to hide back laughter.
Ethan gave Lisa another glare and Lisa batted her eyelashes at him. Ethan turned away, focusing his attention on Raven. “So, what’s your Core magic? I know you can’t show us, but the deets will work.”
It was the question Raven had been dreading. She stiffened, but surprisingly, so did Lisa. Ethan looked between the two, before holding his hands up defensively.
“Whoa, got it. Taboo topic. Is it safe to ask what your Illusion magic is or is that off-limits too?”
“No tact,” Lisa muttered.
“Says the queen of putting holes in things that disagree with her.”
“Water manipulation,” Raven said, breaking up the argument. “I can make water move and shape it into objects.”
“Sweet,” Ethan said, eyeing her Embud. “And you’re an Orange too. Maybe you can…” Ethan trailed off as his gaze landed on a guard making his way towards them.
Immediately, the playful atmosphere vanished. They all stood at attention like soldiers. The guard stopped in front of them and pointed at Raven. “Raven Delias, come with me.”
Swallowing, Raven nodded and followed the guard, glancing back at Lisa and Ethan. They both looked at her worriedly. It didn’t inspire a lot of confidence. Raven followed the guard, wondering what new hurdle ECI had to offer her.