By the end of the story, they stopped walking. Orisa stood there dumbfounded, crying quietly.
"Rita... I'm so sorry," she sobbed while wiping her reddened cheeks, but more and more tears rained down her face, "I never knew... She never told..."
Youko tried to hug Orisa awkwardly. She patted the girl on the back and said quietly:
"I imagine that being the case. You rarely mention such details to anyone."
They stood like that for quite some time. It almost made Youko regret her decision. 'How people deal with the situations like this one, I wonder?'
Finally, Orisa distanced herself, wiping the remnants of her tears with a shirt's collar.
"I'm sorry, Miss Satou. I shouldn't have-"
"It's all right. By the look of things, you are really close to each other, so it must be uncomfortable to hear all that."
Orisa looked at Youko with a confused expression on her face. When she completely recovered, at least regarding her appearance and ability to move, they began to walk again.
"How do you know all that, Miss Satou?"
"Well, I was there, to begin with." Orisa looked at her with a mix of horror and admiration. Clearing her throat, Youko continued. "I also read her report and even briefly talked to lady Stronoff once. Plus, a lot of history books and records mention parts of her story here and there."
"I see..." It was hard for Orisa to stomach the fact that she walked side by side with someone from the Story. The fact that she was close to Rita, the Hero of the Story, eluded her. "So you were there, too..."
"Yes," and mistaking Orisa's intentions, Youko added, "I owe my life to Miss Stronoff, too."
"Let's review what you can do now, and then you'll tell me your plan." When they entered the gym, Youko switched her gears back to a teacher mode.
Orisa told her about the six-bottles training, Mana charging and Mana flow exercises, Youko was impressed:
"That is a praiseworthy accomplishment, good work. And now you were planning to develop some basic technique to utilize your Mana flow and Mana pool?" Orisa simply nodded. "Then let me view your papers once more, I might advise something."
While Youko skimmed through Orisa's notes, she decided to try the Mana manipulation training that Rita advised her.
'So, I need to create a sphere of Mana on my palm? Sounds easy.'
It was not. Orisa tried to imagine a sphere when pushing her Mana out of the palm, but nothing happened no matter how long she tried. Her Mana just slowly drained away, sipping through her fingers like sand.
'Useless-Useless-Useless!' Her internal critic chimed in.
'Can you, I don't know, maybe shut up? You are not helping me concentrate, and I'm not interested in your bizarre adventure.'
"What are you doing?" Youko pulled Orisa out of her internal debate.
"Oh, this? I'm trying to do the Mana manipulation exercise to create a sphere." Orisa hung her head a little dejectedly, "but it seems I'm doing something wrong."
"I understand. There is a common mistake in the first step of-" Youko was interrupted by an opening door.
Tiana stood in the doorframe with a puzzled and slightly dissatisfied expression, eyeing both Orisa and Youko suspiciously.
"Good evening, young lady Kavenfenn." Youko said in an even voice, turning around to greet her.
"Good evening, Miss Satou." Tiana bowed slightly and was about to leave when Youko called her:
"Actually, can I borrow you for some time?"
"Yes, how can I help you?" A momentary dissatisfaction flashed on her face when she turned around and entered the room.
"Thank you, Tiana. Although, it is not for me, I need you to help this girl over here." Youko waved to Orisa who subtly grinned and winked to Tiana. "She just started her Mana manipulation training. I think it is an excellent opportunity for you to learn how to teach people, and for both of you to get to know each other."
"Oh, don't worry, we know each oth-" Orisa began but was hastily interrupted by a blushing Tiana:
"We most certainly not! For me being an acquaintance with such... person is outrageous!"
Youko looked at them with an amused and predatory expression on her face. As Orisa noticed her expression, she thought to herself: ‘if you now say Ara-Ara, I'm going to explode.'
"Anyhow, I need to check on the squad and will be back soon. Please, take care of Orisa for me. I will inspect your progress soon."
"Right..." Watching Youko leave, she turned to Orisa with frustration all over her beautiful noble face.
"So, young lady Kavenfenn, where do we start?" Orisa was faster, she spoke, trying her hardest to keep a straight face.
"Don't talk to me, fiendfood, unless I ask you something. Tell me what you can do and why do you need it."
Orisa had to repeat the same info dump for Tiana whose face got more and more disgusted with every word.
"Pathetic." She muttered through her gritted teeth.
"Hey! The fuck!?" Orisa was outraged by her reaction. It struck too close to home. "It's not my fault that my stats are trash!"
"Then kill yourself already. Less food for the Wavespawn."
"You know what? Go to hell fucking princess!" Orisa quickly grabbed her things and stormed away.
She sat on a bench outside the building, still fuming:
'The hell is wrong with her?'
'Oh, poor girl, somebody is bullying her, how unfair! Let's all stand in a circle, hold hands and be friends!' The internal critic was already there, poking her.
She was just silently raging, thinking about injustice and inequality.
'All men are not created to be equal.' The critic poked her again after some time.
'Stop quoting anime. What do you want from me?'
'Get back. Who's gonna teach you?'
'Not her, apparently, she can go to hell for all I care.'
'What would Youko say? What would Rita do?'
'That's cheap! How could you..?' Orisa was appalled by his behavior.
She grumbled for a few more minutes then stood up and returned to the gym. Tiana was already practicing. She ignored Orisa completely.
"Go die already, fiendfood."
"Don't talk to me, trash."
"So you can't? Just as I thought, it was a poor choice that Miss Youko entrusted something to you."
"How dare you!? I am perfectly capable of completing such a task!"
Orisa tried to keep her face straight while she was laughing internally. 'Pff, stupid kid. And I was offended by this? Something is really wrong with my mood.' She silently shook her head before speaking again:
"Miss Satou will be back soon, and you made zero progress." It was a risky taunt, but she had to push harder for Tiana to break.
She looked at Orisa for a moment, sensing that something was fishy, but in the end, let out a long sigh.
"Show me what you are doing. Quickly."
Orisa tried again to push a sphere out of her hand with the same result.
"Tch. Of course, you are doing it all wrong." She extended her hand with the palm facing upwards. In a blink of an eye, a blue sphere appeared there and began to spin. "You need to repeat all the stages to do it."
Orisa looked puzzled. 'What stages?' She thought for a moment before coming to a conclusion - the act of creation of this sphere is not something you just do. Instead, you perform a step-by-step transformation.
"Do it again, but this time much slower."
Again, a blue sphere appeared on her palm.
"I said do it slower. I know you are doing it on purpose. Just stop wasting time already."
"Tch, you are just too slow, but that is to be expected from a useless creature." She did it again, this time slower, so Orisa was able to momentarily see another form appear before the sphere, but it still was too quick.
"If you are so smart, young lady, then why can't you properly show me a step by step instruction?"
"Tch." She showed Orisa her palm that glowed blue. "See? Mana!" Next moment a long blue jet came out of her hand. It was similar to a flame from a lighter, slowly dancing on her palm. It changed its form into a sphere. "Now got it?"
"Stop tch-ing me already. How do you make this flame thing?" Orisa was thoroughly confused.
"What? I..." Now it was Tiana's turn to be puzzled. She blinked in confusion a few times before heavily blushing and yelling. "I don't know. I just do it, that's all! It is your fault for being inept!"
"Oh, calm down, would you?" Orisa pondered for a moment, ignoring Tiana's outrage. 'Maybe she is a natural, a prodigy who just unconsciously makes simple manipulations?' She decided to probe the waters:
"So, it is not the same as pushing Mana?"
"Of course not! It's obvious! It just flows outside normally."
"Right-right. I see. Now, be quiet for a moment while I'm thinking."
And again Orisa focused on the problem and ignored Tiana's relentless verbal assault.
She pushed her Mana to the hand, letting it flow on the palm's surface. 'So, how do I send it out without forcibly pushing?' She turned her palm to face the floor, but Mana remained there, slowly flowing on the surface. She imagined a floodgate open in her palm.
A huge jet of blue flame shot out of her hand, burning the floor. She panicked and shook her hand, thwarting the process.
"Are you out of your mind!?" Tiana screamed, jumping away.
She threw a cold spell to extinguish a smoldering floor, which made a hissing sound and raised cloud of smoke.
"Oh, sorry... And thank you for taking care of the floor." Orisa was shocked by her own hand. She also became dizzy. 'Looks like I overused Mana pool again.'
After taking a break, Orisa tried again with her palm facing upwards. She imagined a tiny hole being closed by a valve, and slowly turned it. A small blue flame appeared at her palm.
Without any more directions, Orisa thought about the flame becoming more round. It took her twenty seconds of intense concentration to make into a sphere. 'Although, it is more of an ellipsoid than a sphere.'
“Show me some basic exercises for concentration, too.” Orisa turned to a still baffled Tiana.
“Tch. For your garbage, useless, pathetic level of-“
It was when Youko returned and involuntarily interrupted another verbal abuse. She looked at the charred floor and raised her eyebrow:
"Now I am very interested in your progress," She said after a long theatrical pause, "was Tiana helpful?"
Tiana's face became red. She opened her mouth and closed it back a few times, trying to think of something to say.
"Oh, yes, she absolutely was!" Orisa started excitedly. "She is a natural at this!"
"I see..." Youko was unconvinced, to say the least.
"She already taught me how to create a Mana sphere and was about to explain more on the topic of concentration training." Orisa beamed with excitement.
"Really?" Amused, Youko turned to already purple Tiana, "sorry for the interruption, please, go on."
Tiana cleared her dry throat, took a deep breath and began with a slightly shaky voice:
"As I was saying, there are two well-suited beginner exercises you should try out. The first would favorably compliment your Mana flow accomplishments." She paused to take another breath, the color slowly leaving her face, returning it back to its pale beauty. "As for the second one, it is more complex and might demand much more practice. Although, I'm quite positive that you'll perform well above expectations in this case."
Youko nodded, quite pleased with this statement.
They proceeded with the development of the new, Orisa-styled skill.
Powered by Youko's knowledge and Orisa's curiosity and unyielding drive, the progress was made. Tiana was mostly quiet, occasionally adding small comments here and there, although she contributed some ideas, too.
From time to time Orisa made remarks like these:
"Great idea, lady Kavenfenn. I'm glad that you are here."
"How wise of you to point it out."
"With your help, I feel like I can accomplish something."
Orisa practiced her new skill. She felt like her body learned it, as Rita told her in the letter.
By the end of the evening, she was exhausted but felt amazing. When Youko decided to leave, Tiana followed her. When they were in the door frame, Orisa decided to add a finishing touch to her mocking:
"Miss Satou, thank you very much for your help and your time. Also, lady Kavenfenn," Orisa grinned, "your participation was immensely appreciated. I feel like I've already learned a lot from you. It was a pleasure. You are a great teacher, and I'd certainly like to follow in your footsteps." Orisa bowed down.
"Indeed, I'm quite pleased with this outcome." Murmured Youko. She took a long look at Tiana and continued. "It would be beneficial for you, lady Kavenfenn, to continue tutoring Orisa from now on."
Orisa almost felt Tiana's immense pain and displeasure. Only years of hard training helped Tiana keep her face straight, and she simply nodded. Youko thought for a moment and then added:
"Also, I must reconsider my weekly report to your father." At this very moment, something inside Orisa ringed, and she focused on Youko's words. "He was rather concerned with your progress in regards to the leadership skills. Now it became obvious that you made some significant progress. You should find my report quite favorable, and your father satisfied."
And now the puzzle in Orisa's head has finally come together. She almost drooled over her discovery.
Youko turned around and left the room, leaving Tiana red-faced with her head down. When she decided to leave, she quickly peeked at Orisa, who whispered, moving only her lips:
"You. Are. Mine."