“Listen to me Akko, this is really important.”
“LALALALALALALA, I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” The japanese girl had put her fingers in her ears and turned away from her mother.
“Akko, sweetie, I am sorry and I know this is really unexpected.” The older woman who looked exactly like her daughter, maybe a bit taller, put a hand on the younger girl’s shoulder and looked her deep in the eyes. “I was shocked at first too when my mother told me on my 18th birthday. But you are a Genie and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“But I’m a witch, mom. I can channel my magic with a wand, I don’t need any stupid and embarrassing dances for that.” Akko stomped her foot on the ground and pouted.
“I appreciate your efforts in learning about different ways of magic. I always supported you. It will help you get accustomed to your new powers quicker. I had never shown any interest in magic and it took me three years to get a hang of the basics. Also, only the most complicated magic requires dances, most is just done by blinking, like this.”
Her mother put her arms in front of herself, one over the other, and blinked her eyes. Suddenly the cake she had made for her daughter’s birthday started floating.
“Now you try. Just imagine the cake landing on the table again and do the same as I did. It’s easy, you just need good concentration and imagination.”
Concentration and imagination, huh? The second she had always been great in, but the first she had had a hard time learning, until Diana had agreed to give her extra lessons after classes.
Why did she have to be here and have her mother tell her that all her life up until now was a lie? All she wanted was to have a fun birthday with her friends, but then her mother insisted in her coming home for the holidays and now she knew why.
‘Imagination, huh?’ Akko did the same motion as her mother had done and blinked, only for the candles on the cake to start burning again, with 20cm high flames.
“ATSUKO KAGARI! I KNOW THAT WASN’T AN ACCIDENT!”
Akko winced, but couldn’t resist a small giggle when she noticed her mother’s eyebrows had caught fire.
“If you behave like that, your master won’t be pleased once you’ve finished your training!”
Akko blinked in confusion. “My… master?!? What’s that supposed to mean?”
“As a Genie you have to serve your master, the owner of your bottle.”
“Wait, you mean when we went to that cool glass blowing workshop this morning the bottle I made will be my home? And it won’t even belong to me?”
“I’m afraid so, but I must admit you did an astonishing job, it’s twice as big as mine. Your breath is very strong. Just like your father, I wish he was still with us.”
Both women swallowed and shot a glance over to the shrine in the house with a picture of the man, smiling into the camera. Akko had never known him well since he was always away for his work and then when she was 10 he took a flight that never reached its destination.
“Was he…” Akko’s voice was only a whisper. “Was he your master?”
“Yes, my mother knew his family and had promised me to them. He was very scared at first, but he was gentle and he tried to take good care of me. Naturally we fell in love with each other and got married.” A single tear ran over her mother’s cheek.
“And what about me? Did you promise me to some dude as well?”
“What? Oh. No, I didn’t. I wanted you to finish your training first, then we would search for a proper master together. It’s the 21st century after all, you should have a word in who you’re sworn to obey.”
“You do realize that still sounds super backwards, right?” Akko raised an eyebrow. “I don’t want to have to obey some random dude. I’m a free woman and want to live after my own rules!”
“That’s just not possible. You’re a Genie, a magical being. You can’t decide your own fate, magic does that for you.”
“You know what? I don’t care. I won’t obey any guy, and that’s that.”
“Atsuko! Can’t you see this is important? Go to your room and cool off!”
Her mom did the same pose as before and blinked, a poof and a pink cloud of smoke later Akko was in her room. Her bottle was sitting on her bed, together with a large thick book.
‘Genie Magic 101, huh? And was that teleportation magic? Witches can’t do that, at least not without prepared objects at the location, so this could maybe be useful at some point.’
With a deep sigh she opened the book and started reading.
The first chapter was titled How to get comfortable in your new Bottle . It was about summoning bed cushions for the floor and minimizing her own possessions to fit inside.
After a few tries she had managed to fit all of her belongings in there and create a comfortable bed. It was actually really nice to have this little portable home.
With her room fully emptied she stared at the blank walls until an idea came to her mind.
She grabbed her bag, filled it with a few of her clothes and the bottle and started flipping through the book in search of a particular section.
‘Aha! So how exactly does this work?’
The brunette sat down on the floor with her legs crossed, carefully studying the chapter of the book, her tongue peeking out the corner of her mouth.
After she was done reading she stached the book in her bag as well, threw it over her shoulder and took a deep breath.
“Alright, concentration and imagination. Concentration and imagination.”
She took another deep breath, put her arms over each other and thought of a place where she currently would feel safe that her mother didn’t know about. Then she blinked.
Even before Akko opened her eyes she could feel a cold breeze on her face.
She slightly opened one eye, watching the cloud of pink smoke clear.
It was nighttime, and she was standing on a stone bridge over a small river that opened up into a lake. The road over the bridge lead towards the huge entrance door of a castle at the shore of said lake.
Akko blinked confused. This wasn’t Lotte’s home in Finland, this was Cavendish Manor.
Well, this worked as well, her mother didn’t know this location either. But why had she blinked herself here instead? She pushed the thought away and went to the huge door and knocked on it. After a few minutes it opened slightly to reveal the face of the head maid of the house.
“He-hello Anna. Lovely weather tonight, isn’t it?”
“You? What in the world are you doing here? It’s five o'clock in the morning.” The old woman in her long nightgown was holding a candle on a gold shaped plate thingy Akko didn’t know the name of, but it fit her perfectly, with a few strands of grey hair falling out the side of her hairnet.
“I sorta am in trouble. Can I speak to Diana?”
“At this hour you can absolutely not.”
“Anna, who is it? If they have the bravery to knock at such a time it can’t be unimportant.”
“Miss, it’s a friend from your school. She wants to talk to you.”
Akko didn’t like how Anna had pronounced the word friend, but she didn’t care because Diana’s voice made her heart jump. This was who she wanted to spend her birthday with, not her mom telling her that she wasn’t in control over her future.
The door opened fully and Akko waved shyly at her classmate who was wearing a blue silk nightgown that ended a bit over her knees and left Akko taking a deep breath.
“Akko! What happened? I thought you were still in Japan.” The blonde blinked a few times while speeding up her walk towards the door.
“Well, you see, I had a pretty big fight with my mom and sorta ran away. And now I need a place where I can stay.” She laughed nervously and scratched the back of her head.
“Oh. Come in, don’t stand out there in the cold. Anna, could you please prepare a room for our guest.”
“Actually, that won’t be necessary, I brought my own room. Long story, I’ll explain later.”
Akko giggled a bit at the confused faces the two made while she closed the door behind herself.
“Uhm, I know it’s a weird request given the time, but could I get something to eat? I come straight from Tokyo and haven’t had lunch yet. It’s about 1pm there now.”
“Straight from Tokyo?” Diana raised an eyebrow. “How exactly did you get here?”
“I, uhh, haha, well, I teleported.”
“Teleported? Without placing artifacts? Over such a long distance?” Diana’s eyes shot wide open. “That’s really advanced magic, only a handful of witches and some magical creatures and beings are able to, how in the world did you do that? Even I can’t use such a spell, I don’t even know any.”
“That’s also part of the long story. Let’s grab something to eat and I’ll explain.”
“Very well. Anna, please tell the kitchen staff I’m having breakfast a bit earlier today. We’ll eat on the east balcony.”
The older woman rushed off while muttering under her breath, leaving the two alone in the huge entrance.
“Come Akko, we’ll take the scenic route there, then you can get started with your story.”
“And then I imagined a place where she could never possibly find me.” Akko grabbed her fourth bread roll. ”I was thinking I’d be describing Lotte’s hometown in my mind, but I ended up here. Not that I’m not glad to see you Diana. It’s just unexpected. I guess Genie magic is just as complicated as witchcraft.”
“And what are you going to do now? You’ll have to go back to school anyways, and there she’ll find you. Of course I’ll do what I can to protect you, you’re my closest friend after all. But I can’t help you much there.” Diana placed down her teacup and looked into Akko’s eyes.
“You’re my bestest friend as well. And don’t get me wrong, I’m super happy to be here, really. It just wasn’t my first choice because of your aunt and because you’re always so busy and I didn’t want to disturb.” Akko flailed her arms in the air as if she had been caught doing something bad and had to defend herself.
“If it’s you any disturbance is welcome.” Diana placed her hand on Akko’s who looked confused about the sudden contact. Both girls started blushing and immediately stared at their feet.
“I, uhhh, hadn’t really thought about anything. I figured I’d just stay in Finland, live on a shelf in the back of the Jansson’s shop. Help a bit with the inventory to make a living. It wouldn’t be amazing, but at least it’d be my own life and not one my mom chose for me.”
“Akko, this idea might be a bit unorthodox, and I might even offend you with it, but how about…” Diana mumbled the rest of the sentence too quiet for Akko to hear and fumbled around with her thumbs.
“Uhhh, Diana? I didn’t quite catch that.”
“Nevermind, forget I said anything.” The blonde turned her face away and looked over the fields bathing in the glowing early light of the sunrise.
“Come on, what did you want to say? I’m curious, and you know I never give up until I know what’s going on.” Akko knew Diana couldn’t resist her puppy eyes, so she played that card to her best ability.
“Okay, fine. I said how about I become your master. Satisfied? It’s a stupid idea and you don’t have to say anything, just please ignore I ever mentioned it.” The older girl pinched the bridge of her nose and once again looked down at her feet.
“No, that’s a brilliant idea. I’d be more than happy to help you with anything.” Akko shot up and jumped at the blonde witch, giving her a big hug and the widest smile she could manage.
“But wouldn’t that ignore the purpose of why you ran away in the first place? You still wouldn’t be free to do whatever, you’d be bound to me.”
“That’s totally okay for me. I didn’t want to be a shelf decoration for a random stranger, but you? You’re my best friend, there’s noone I’d trust more with my life than you.”
“But what are we going to do about your mother? Will she even accept this?”
“Mom? What can she do? She said I have to have a master, I found one. She might not like it, but in theory I did what she asked me to, so she can suck it up. You’re stuck with me now, Miss.”
“Alright then, I’ll inform Anna and do some preparations for your stay here. Please inform your mother, I don’t really feel comfortable in taking control over your life behind her back.”
“Ugh, okay. Your wish is my command.” Akko giggled at her own joke while she fumbled her phone out of her pocket.
“Hey mom, so this might be a tiiiiiiiny bit unexpected, but I’m in Scotland with a friend. She agreed to be my master, so you won’t have to find some stranger guy for me.”
“You are where? How did you…? You can already teleport? And at such distances?”
“Yep, it was actually pretty easy, I just imagined the place I would feel safest at and suddenly I was here. Actually I wanted to go to another friend, but I guess I was too vague with imagining.”
“But you’re safe, yes? I admit I’m angry, but mostly I was worried. You can’t just leave like that without a note. What if you blinked yourself in the middle of the ocean or into a volcano.”
“Geez, mom, I’m fine. And Diana is totally cool about it. You don’t have to worry so much.”
‘Wait, did mom just chuckle?’ Akko took the phone away from her ear and stared at it, not believing what she just heard.
“Who exactly is she? You talked about her non-stop, but you never gave me any exact details.”
“Well, we’ve been best friends for a bit less than two years now, and she’s sorta kinda super rich, last descendant of an important lineage of witches, yada yada.
Oh, and I took the book with me, so I can do my training without you.”
“That doesn’t matter, I want to inspect her on my own. Give me the address and I’ll come over next week.”
Akko swallowed hard. This was what she absolutely didn’t want to happen. If her mother came here she’d meet aunt Daryl, and that wouldn’t end well at all.
“Mooooooom. It’s fine, really. You don’t have to worry. I’m in good hands here. The best hands there are actually. You stay in Japan and do your job, I stay here and live my life. We’ll come visit you during the autumn holidays, okay?”
“I took your whole summer holiday off from work to train you. I’ll come, and if you insist so much on me not doing it I’ll come tomorrow. I just haven’t appeared in front of you yet because I don’t want to blink into someone’s house unannounced.”
“But you’ve never been here, how can you even blink yourself here? The book said it has to be a place you are familiar with.”
“That’s a beginners book, once you’re at a higher experience level you can do more advanced things, like teleporting to a person you’re familiar with, even if you’ve never been to the place.”
“Huh, that’s cool. Alright, I’ll inform her that you’re coming to visit tomorrow. But you can’t stay, okay?”
“Fine, but I’ll come over every second day for your training. What time would work for you?”
“Hmm, how about 10am local time? That should be, lemme think, 6pm your time?”
“Great, then I’ll see you tomorrow. And don’t think I wouldn’t still be mad at you for running away. I’m just glad you’re safe.”
“Okay, seeya, bye.”
Diana was sitting in the library reading, her desk cluttered with books in all different kinds of sizes.
“Hey, whatcha reading there? Lemme take a peek.” The Japanese peeked over the British girl’s shoulder.
“Oh, Akko. Actually I’m reading about you.”
“Me? Those books are about me?” The brunette blinked a few times in confusion.
“Not you directly, about Genies. It’s truly fascinating. A whole different take on magic, a deep connection within your soul. This would explain why the Claiomh Solais chose you, together with the fact that your nature is so cheery. And it explains why you had a way harder time learning magic than I had after I lost it as a kid. Your body is used to using magic in an entirely different way. You can command it with just your willpower, you don’t need any object to focus it, just your own body. Sadly the information about how exactly your magic works is missing in this library, I’ll look deeper into it once we’re back in school. But what I can say is you have incredible powers, you managed to come all the way here from Japan within seconds, just by blinking your eyes.”
“If you want, you can read my training book with me, it might help you understand it better. Oh, and I called my mom like you asked me to, she wants to come over tomorrow. And then every second day for the rest of our summer holidays to train me.”
“Very well, she can tell me what’s necessary for your training and I’ll have staff prepare a room accordingly.”
“Soooooo, anything I can do for you? Wow, now that I think about it, I’m not much more for you now than anyone else working here, huh?”
“What? No, Akko, you’re special. As you already said, we’re best friends. This doesn’t change anything between us. As a matter of fact you’re the most important person in my life.”
“Wow, I’m that important to you? Cool.” What kind of reaction was that? Akko internally facepalmed about her own stupidity.
Well, it couldn’t be that bad, since Diana started giggling.
“Soooo, what’s the plan for the rest of the day?” The brunette asked while scratching the back of her head. “And for the rest of the summer I guess. I mean after the holidays are over we’ll go to school again then, but what in the meantime? Oh, and uhh, I sorta live in my bottle now, so, well, I guess I’ll have to live on your nightstand now, since you’re its owner.”
“Wait, what? We’ll have to live together now?” Diana blinked and her cheeks went slightly pink. Akko couldn’t help but think how cute she looked.
“Nono, it’s not really like that. I think. Well, you see, the bottle is my own room. All of my stuff is in there. I even sleep in there, I created a really fluffy bed at the bottom that I can sit on.”
“Oh. Then I will have to take really good care of it. You said I’m the owner? But it’s your room, could you please explain that further?”
“Well, whoever owns my bottle is my owner, that’s how Genies apparently work. It’s super backwards and stupid, but apparently it’s some sort of magical necessity. And since it’s you I feel fine about it, because I know I can trust you.”
“I hope I can live up to the trust you put in me.”
“Of course you can.” Akko sat down on Diana’s lap and smiled at her. “You’re a Cavendish, and you’re absolutely perfect in every single way.”
This made the blonde blush even more. ”Akko. What are you doing?”
“Huh? What? Oh, sorry. I, uhh, well, uhm, hehehe…I kinda just did it on impulse. Should I get off?”
“N-no, it’s fine.” Diana cleared her throat.
“Ahem.” As both girls spun their head around they noticed Anna standing in the doorframe, now fully clothed. “There’s more guests for you, mylady. Miss Parker and Miss England.”
“Send them in please. I was done going through these books anyways.”
“Very well.” Anna turned around and mumbled something that to Akko sounded like ‘I could see you were very busy with something else than books.’ which made the brunette gulp.
A few seconds later Hannah and Barbara entered the library before Akko could climb off Diana’s lap, so both girls started blushing and couldn’t meet the eyes of the new arrivals.
“Hey Diana. And apparently Akko?” Barbara tilted her head at the two.
“Having fun there?” Hannah couldn’t help but giggle.
“I-it’s not what you think it is!” Akko shouted while falling to the floor, her arms flailing around.
Hannah and Barbara exchanged a knowing look.
“Oh, and what do we think it is?” The redhead smirked.
“Yes, I’d like you to elaborate on that.” The black haired girl nodded in agreement with her girlfriend.
“Girls, please. Leave Akko alone, she had a long and exhausting day.” Diana could always be counted on to defend Akko, and this made the Japanese girl happy.
“Long day? What are you talking about Diana? It’s only half past nine.” Barbara looked confused over to Hannah who shared her expression.
“Well, I’m up since seven. In Japan.” The brunette rubbed her elbows while getting up from the floor. “I arrived here a bit less than five hours ago.”
“Oh, right, I remember you said your mother asked you to spend the summer with her. Why did you come here then?” The redhead asked, quickly adding “Not that we don’t appreciate having you here.”
“Actually, I’m sick of explaining this story over and over so many times. Lemme make a call.”
Akko grabbed her phone and a few seconds later it connected and a familiar face appeared on the screen.
“An-to-the-drew! My dude! Howzya?”
“Hey Akko. I’m fine. And how’s my favorite birthday gurl? Still annoyed about being stuck in Japan?” He flashed an apologetic smile.
“Wait, it’s your birthday? Oh wow, we’re so sorry we forgot. Happy birthday Akko.” Barbara looked to the floor, clearly ashamed.
“Yeah, congratulations. We should have totally remembered, hope you can forgive us.” Hannah smiled awkwardly, trying her best to not let it get to her too much.
“Wait, are those Hannah and Barbara I hear? What are they doing in Japan?” Andrew arched an eyebrow.
“Actually, I’m not there anymore. Hey, come over girls, you need to all fit in the video feed.”
Her friends obliged and a few seconds later Andrew could see all four of them, close to each other, awkwardly smiling at the foreign device.
“See, I’m at Diana’s place now. Crazy story, and a pretty long one. So how about you come over and we spend the day in town, celebrating a bit and I’ll explain everything on the ride there?”
“Hey girls, nice to see all of you again. Sure thing, I’ll call Morton and then I’ll be over in about thirty minutes. Don’t have too much fun without me.” Andrew winked, and then the screen faded to black, indicating the end of the call.
“Akko, I knew you were friends with Andrew, but I had no idea you were so close.” Diana blinked a few times, looking at Akko with an expression somewhere between confused and sad.
“Yeah, he’s a great dude. Helped me out of trouble quite a few times. And since Lotte started dating Frank we’ve been hanging out a lot while they were busy flirting. Also, promise to not tell anyone, but he has a crush on Amanda. I’ve been trying to hook them up for the last three months now, but with her going to America and me to Japan my plans were slowed down, a lot.”
“Oh, I see. Well, I should have expected as much, you always make every person you cross paths with into your friend after all. One of the qualities I admire so much about you.” Diana’s face showed relief, until Hannah opened her mouth.
“NO WAY? Andrew has a crush on Amanda O’Neill of all people?!?” The redhead’s eyes grew to twice their usual size.
“Actually, I can see those two working out perfectly, they’d be so cute together.” Barbara swooned. And with a malicious giggle she added “And imagine his dad’s face when he brings her to one of his parties. Especially if she’s wearing a suit again like at Luna Nova’s Spring Ball.”
“I know, right! They’re such a good match. You totally have to help me getting them together. With your help it’d be so much easier.” Akko grabbed Barbara’s hands and dragged her off to an empty table in the library where the two proceeded to plan out their schemes to hook their friend up with each other.
Diana and Hannah just stared at each other before they laughed and started returning Diana’s books to their respective shelves until Andrew would arrive to pick them up for their trip to town.