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Bonus Short Story

Skipping Stones

The sun glimmered off Illuminas’s inviting seas.

“Whoa! It’s so hot! Chris, Chris! Let’s make snow cones!”

“Sure, that sounds good, Rani.” Inglis nodded. She focused the aether covering her and converted it into mana, weaving a spell. “Ice!”

A narrow pillar of ice grew from under the water’s surface with a clink.

“Ooh! That’s so cool! Like, literally! It feels great!” Rafinha wrapped her arms around the pillar of ice.

“Don’t be silly, Rani. We can’t eat that if you’re holding on to it while it’s still in the ocean.”

“Just make another one. We’ll use that one to make snow cones. ♪”

“Sure, sure. If you insist.” Inglis did as requested.

“Hey, Leone, try hugging one of these! It feels nice and cool!” Rafinha said, gesturing at the two ice pillars.

“Pardon me, then... Yes, it does feel quite nice.”

“I’m a little bit sunburned—enough that it stings. Cooling down feels so good.”

“Yes, my skin is getting a little red too.”

Liselotte chimed in, “I suppose I should try as well... Ah, this certainly is refreshing.” She smiled as she embraced a pillar, even though she didn’t appear to be sunburned.

“Liselotte, you seem fine. Does your skin sting too?”

“I’m used to the sun. Charot is a port city, after all.”

“You’re so lucky having lived by the sea! I’m a little bit jealous,” Leone said.

“Right? Ymir is all mountains and forests,” Rafinha said.

Liselotte chuckled. “I used to go to the beach every day when I was little and come back bright red all over.”

“That happened to me too, but it’s totally different in the hills compared to by the sea.”

Inglis knew exactly what Rafinha was talking about. “Yeah, Rani used to always set up a hammock in tall trees and fall asleep up there, then wake up with a sunburn in a net pattern on her face.”

“That’s not what I meant! And you did the same thing too!”

Inglis laughed. “We were so little back then.”

“I wish I could have seen that,” Liselotte said.

“Hey, Liselotte, what do people do at the beach anyway?” Rafinha asked.

“Well, there’s swimming, of course. Or getting a boat and going fishing... And I used to love to make sandcastles. And then there’s this one thing only kids can get away with.” She plucked up a flat rock from near her feet.

“Oh, skipping stones?” Leone asked. “I used to do that in the river near my hometown.”

“Yes. And I’m quite good at it,” Liselotte said.

“I haven’t tried it much,” Rafinha said. “All right, let’s have a competition! I’ll go first! Mmph!” She threw a stone toward a calm patch of sea, but it only bounced once, twice, thrice before sinking. “Hmm... Guess I got three.”

“My turn next, then,” Leone said. Leone’s stone skipped a steady five times and even made it to a sixth before dropping below. “New record here! Mine made it six.”

“Allow me.” Liselotte’s stone skipped across the sea like a living thing, sailing far into the distance.

“Wow!” Rafinha gasped. “That was great! How many skips was that?!”

“Twenty or so,” Leone observed. “I’m impressed but not surprised.”

Liselotte chuckled. “I suppose I win, then.”

“Chris!” Rafinha said. “Chris, you try it too!”

“Okay, Rani. But you know I take these things seriously.” Aether Shell! Pale blue light washed over Inglis as she wound up and threw a stone as hard as she could.


The force of her throw parted the seas, and her stone flew over the exposed seabed.

“How was that?”

“No good! It didn’t even skip once!”

“Wait, what?!”

“Ha ha ha...” Leone and Liselotte shared a strained laugh.

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