Madeline sighed and kicked a stone irritably. Ever since that giant bird had saved her from the collapsing bridge, she’d been feeling increasingly restless. Walking helped, a little, but not enough. Kicking the stone didn’t actually help, but it did express her irritation.
She briefly considered bounding down the path like an excited deer, then decided against it. (She might trip on a rock, and more importantly she’d look ridiculous.)
Besides. The restlessness would pass, wouldn’t it?
Several hours later, she was finding that it didn’t. In fact, it had gotten even worse. She found herself pausing to bounce in place on the balls of her feet, jiggling her leg when stopping to re-tie her boot laces. It didn’t so much help as shift the focus of the restlessness a little. Mostly, though, she found herself thinking back to the bridge. To the moment time seemed to restart, slow like treacle, and the rush of speed. (With her luck, even being able to do that again would probably not help.) (Maybe she should just turn around and go home.)
She was coming up to the ruined city. The main trail supposedly diverged, but it seemed like she’d missed the turnoff while distracted by her restlessness, which would explain the annoying but somewhat helpful vertical section; the climb had made her feel a little better, even if her hands hurt at the end, and the ice that had built up on parts of it had been weirdly sharp. (Maybe the mountain didn’t want her to climb it). That was a ridiculous thought, and she pushed it out of her mind.
The city itself was a crumbling, surreal wreck. It was plastered with posters, ranging from the almost-sensible to the memetically bizarre and out-of-place bikini ads. Somehow, the posters remained intact despite being exposed to the elements for years, and indeed despite the city itself falling apart. In many places, the concrete of the buildings had actually fallen off in chunks, leaving behind exposed metal frames.
As she neared it, Madeline suddenly found herself unable to resist the restlessness. She broke into a sprint, heedless of the unevenness of the path. Swerving around rocks, sliding on patches of ice, and jumping over a few tree branches and the shattered remains of a telephone pole, she kept up her headlong rush for almost a minute. Then there was a dip in the path, and she leapt over it, as fast and as far as she could.
She skidded to a stop on the other side of the dip, right next to what may have once been scaffolding on one side and a small pit filled with a mixture of freshly-fallen broken window and icicles. It had helped. (A little. Not enough.) (Maybe she’d remain just as restless until she finally left to go home. Maybe that’d help.)
Desperately, she recalled the surge of power from when the bird had saved her. It had communicated…something to her. And she’d done something with that something.
Maybe she had to put the something back?
(Of course she’d be accidentally stealing from a helpful bird. Or the mountain.)
Closing her eyes, Madeline focused on the strange feeling of the mountain’s power, and tried to do the reverse of what the bird had had her do-a difficult and confusing task, as it was mostly abstract. It did not work. (Of course it didn’t work, what did she expect, for things to go right?)
She tried again, slightly different. It, again, did not work. By this point, she was pacing back and forth. She tried a third time, and a forth. She managed to make the hair on the back of her neck stand up, which was very odd to be able to do at will, but not actually helpful. The restlessness was making it hard to think. Remembering how much help the climb to the wrong path had been (hardly anything but it was something), she scrambled up the wall of maybe-scaffolding; the bird had also shown her how to stick to the wall slightly, counteracting the effects of the slippery ice, or in this case the still-mostly-smooth metal. It helped her focus, a little, despite how much of her mind was needed to focus on not falling off.
…The bird’s ‘instructions’ had had two parts. Perhaps she was trying to reverse the wrong thing? (Great. How could she possibly have forgotten that? Of course it was two parts.) Dropping back down, Madeline focused on the power again. This time, she tried to keep the feeling of the power itself mostly the same, and reversed the less-abstract half of the feeling.
Time seemed to slow to a crawl for just long enough for Madeline to notice she felt less restless and more anticipatory.
Then she rocketed forward, feeling like something was pushing-or perhaps pulling-her down into a crouch, and slammed into the wall hard enough to make the ice break off it.
The first thing Madeline noticed was that the restlessness, while not gone, had notably decreased.
The second thing she noticed was that she didn’t hurt at all, aside from a slight ache in her nose from being shoved into the ice. Rubbing at her nose to warm it up, she thought on this for a second.
The bird saving her had been less it using its supernatural powers to lift her out of her fall, and more it giving her the power to save herself. She wasn’t sure how to feel about that. (She should have figured it out earlier, that she’d done something, and instead she’d wasted her time and energy like an idiot trying to find the reverse of a dash.)
More importantly, she now knew two things about this power. One, it had a directional component. Two, she appeared to be possibly invincible while using it. (No, wait, that didn’t make sense.) Her nose hurt from the cold ice. Perhaps she was just immune to slamming into things? (She shouldn’t try it, what if she got hurt? She could kill herself that way.) If that was going to happen, it would’ve happened already. (This whole thing was unreasonable. She wasn’t a mountain climber; she’d never been further above sea level than the top of a skyscraper; she should just go home and leave the magic mountain to the professionals.)
She also now knew that it made the restlessness lessen. Perhaps it needed to be used, every so often. (Or it was just the mountain trying to make her leave.)
Taking a deep breath, Madeline focused again on the power. This time, she tried to make the directional component something different.
This time, she found herself collapsing to her knees as she was abruptly pushed straight down. She found herself sitting in what amounted to a small crater. Picking herself up, she shook her head to get the snow out of her hair, she focused again, this time trying to go straight up. Straight up she went. It got her almost to the height of the rock-and-dirt overhang. Frowning, she leapt into the air, and dashed straight up again. It worked as easily as the first time, and brought her much higher, to the point that she could easily reach out and cling to the wall.
Grinning, Madeline let go, then, a moment too late, realized how high up she was. She tried to dash again, but it only made her feel drained. It felt like she was being pulled, or perhaps pushed, downwards, accelerating far faster than she should.
After only a moment, though, she stopped speeding up. It didn’t feel right. She’d read about skydivers feeling like a cushion of air was pushing them up, but this felt more like being held up from above, suspended, or perhaps like falling through water. (She was gonna die she was gonna die-)
Then she hit the ground, and was surprised to find herself completely unharmed.
Sitting there on her knees, Madeline blinked in confusion for a bit, pushing back the fear (to wither away). Then she picked herself up, thought over the last few seconds, and came to a conclusion.
Slamming into things couldn’t hurt her anymore. Actually, it felt...nice.
She rocked back on the heels of her feet, then exploded into motion. Not caring about if she hit anything, Madeline rocketed around like a human pinball, bouncing off of walls and dashing in every direction she could as she got a handle on her new powers. Eventually, she came to a stop to catch her breath, somewhat higher up in the city than she had started.
That had been fun.
(Even if it was wildly unsafe, with all the sharp ice and broken glass around-what had she been thinking?)
Good mood ruined, Madeline sighed, and starting trudging further up the city at a more reasonable pace.
The light that had been her other self flowed into her, along with what felt like all the magic of the cavern. She felt an empty space in her head she hadn’t even noticed filling with warmth. She felt her hair lift up as if blown backwards by wind, except it stayed like that, and was vaguely, distantly aware of the way the strands brushed against each other, apparently now with at least a little sensation. She felt light, and warm despite her still-wet clothes. Standing there, eyes closed, hands her pockets, smiling, she felt like all was right in the world. She felt complete. She could still feel the fading warmth of the hug she’d given her other self (the hug she had been given), which was certainly helping her good mood. It was the best she’d felt in years.
Then an unfortunately familiar restlessness hit her like a truck. (Oh no. This again.)
She broke into pacing, trying to help it a little. What had helped her feel better, again? (The hug?) Last time. She’d meant to ask herself what had felt better last time.
(It had been a really good hug.)
She knew that but she was trying to get less restless, not reflect on hugs, before the restlessness ruined her mood.
(More hugs would fix it, or at least require unfusing which would probably fix it.) Madeline didn’t dignify that with an answer; it was a temporary ‘solution’ at best, and she’d rather find a permanent one.
Dashing. That had been it. That, and jumping, and climbing-all things relating to her powers.
The way she’d came had closed up behind her, and she couldn’t see any other way to get out of the cavern (unless she unfused and got carried by Badeline, which would be quietly embarrassing for both of them). Madeline jumped towards it, then dashed, landing on the ledge in front of the sudden wall as easily as if she’d been doing it all her life. Belatedly, she realized that she had not felt quite right for just after a mid-air dash. (Maybe she just had to recalibrate her expectations after the hug and the merging?)
...Why was her other self so obsessed with that hug.
(Because it had been really good. Also because she’d...maybe needed it.)
Sighing and deciding to give Badeline another hug later, Madeline hopped up in the air a little and dashed forwards, hoping to break through the wall. Nothing but a pleasant jolt.
She dashed back towards the island. What could Badeline do? ...Lasers, flight, duplication. How did that work?
The vague sense memory of firing a laser didn’t let her do it, even when she focused enough to not be distracted by the sense memory of the admittedly good hug. Trying to fly just resulted in her falling into the pond. Focusing on duplication did not work and resulted in Badeline telling her she was missing the point of how it worked before going back to being distractingly happy at having gotten hugged. Attempting to telekinetically throw a rock only resulted in a slight breeze. (It might be useful during a dash, reducing the windrush which sometimes made her eyes hurt.)
Trying to throw a ball of magic only made her hand tingle. That left only the hair thing she’d done during the...fight? (World’s stupidest fight.) Yes, the world’s stupidest fight. (The hair thing was involuntary.)
That left Madeline walking in a confused oval.
(Badeline could refresh her dashes in the air.)
That was possibly very helpful and from the impatient tone Badeline had been thinking on that for a while, but hadn’t brought it up. Possibly due to being too distracted by hugs.
Not bothering to jump, Madeline dashed straight up (feeling her hair go back to its usual status of a slight weight on her shoulders), then left. There was the familiar feeling of being out of dashes. Now how to refill them again-(dash refill just happened and wasn’t a thing Badeline voluntarily did)-oh.
Once again, Madeline landed in the pond. This time, she didn’t even mind (much). Grinning, she launched herself out of the water, and dashed up-left then up-right, controlling her fall with her still-new magic to fall towards the island and reach full terminal velocity in moments. Almost dropping to her knees on landing to absorb the momentum and prevent her from falling over, Madeline realized something had been slightly bugging her about her reflection. Spinning, she looked in the pond.
...Pink hair. That was new. (It made sense. Her hair was red, Badeline’s was purple, stacked together they were pink.) Dashing straight up turned it back to red, more intense than she remembered her hair looking before, and dashing again turned it a blue close to what she’d glimpsed in reflections before over the past few days (and seen quite well as Badeline), but...more.
(Magic is stored in the hair. It even turned white, for a moment, while she regained her dashes.)
That was interesting, but mystery solved, all Madeline wanted to do was dash around like a human pinball again. So she did.
After over a minute straight of dashing around, slamming into the walls on purpose for the pleasant jolt that she’d probably miss if she lost her powers, Madeline flopped the ground on the island next to the human-sized mushrooms shaped like upside-down strawberries (the grass looked better than she remembered grass usually looking), panting and looking up at the ceiling. There was a hole in the ceiling that was big enough for her to fit through, too high up for one dash, but probably in reach with two.
After half a minute to catch her breath-she was still a little tired from the stupid fight-Madeline pushed herself up, jumped, dashed twice, and started climbing back out of the hole.
Huh. She hadn’t realized how beautifully blue the rock was before. Maybe she’d take a pebble home as a souvenir.