You're All Wet, Ayano!

Ayano's morning was a nightmare. She got up late and then found she'd forgotten to set out her clothes for the day before she went to bed. She couldn't find her favorite brush and her comb broke. She was running late, so all she had time for was a glass of juice before leaving the compound. She barely managed to remember to grab her lunch and her project for school. All her efforts were in vain, though, because she was still late for school.

Her project for first class fell apart during her presentation. It was a lame attempt at making the Eiffel Tower out of toothpicks. Evidently, she failed to use a strong enough glue to hold it together and it collapsed as soon as the set it on the table. Carefully carrying that stupid thing to school was one of the reasons she was late in the first place! To make a bad situation worse, when her tower fell, one of the toothpicks flew over to the table next to her and punctured a clear plastic bag of seawater that another student had brought in from the beach that weekend. He was going to show everyone all the tiny creatures that live in regular seawater. He wound up dumping the whole thing into the sink, but not before Ayano managed to slip on a puddle of the water and land on her butt. Her classmates thought that was super-funny too. If this kept up, she could be elected class clown.

So, Ayano managed to ruin two projects at one time. She felt like crawling into her locker for the rest of the day. She was confused about how she could have slipped, though. There was what felt like a tug on her foot and the next thing she knew she was on the floor. The floor must've been sticky or something. That would be just her luck today.

In her second class, the instructor asked her a question while she was daydreaming about Kazuma and he had to slap his hand on her desk to get her attention. When he did that, it startled her so much she tried to screamed but only a "Squeak!" came out. At least she didn't fall out of her chair this time. The rest of the class thought it was hilarious. The redder her face got, the louder they laughed.

And then (there were a lot of 'and then's today) she got in trouble during study period because she was talking too loudly with Yukari and Nanase. Ayano was afraid to ask how this day could possibly get worse, but she had a sinking feeling that it would.

Walking down the hallway, she tried to tell herself that it was just one of those days. All she had to do was survive it and tomorrow would be a normal, regular day. Stopping at the drinking fountain, she found that the water pressure was low again and only a dribble of water came out when she pressed the button to get a drink. As soon as she lowered her head, however, a surge of water hit her in the face, going into her mouth, up her nose, splashing her whole face and even getting her clothes wet. She screamed, but with all that water in her mouth and nose all that came out was a loud gurggle. She almost fell back on her butt again.

The hallway, full of students, all stared at her. And then they all laughed (of course). Glaring at them all, she tried to straighten herself up and preserve at least a little of her dignity. She was such a funny person all of a sudden. She should get her own TV show. Knowing better than to use magic in public, she went to the restroom to get herself dry.

Lunch. Finally some peace. She met Nanase and Yukari outside at the water fountain. It was plain, as far as water fountains go. Simply a large stone fish in the center of a pool of water, dribbling a sad stream water out of its open mouth. More like a trickle, really.

The girls liked to sit at the edge of it while they ate their lunch and watch all the people go by as they talked. Ayano shared with them her trials of the day and they, being her best friends, sympathized with her over her troubles. The drinking fountain incident produced a snicker from Yukari, but she managed to muffle it by quickly biting into her sandwich.

A slight breeze blew in, and it reminded Ayano of Kazuma. She wondered what he was doing today and if he was thinking about her. The small breeze blew her napkin to the ground and as she bent down to pick it up, she was surprised by a blast of water that went up her back where her shirt was hiked up. It felt like a water hose going up her back. The shock of it pitched her forward and she found herself sprawled on the ground face first, her lunch things scattered on the ground around her. That water was cold! But where did it come from? All she could see behind her was that stupid stone fish and it was just dribbling water like normal. Everyone else laughed except for her friends, but they had tears in their eyes and had to quickly excuse themselves to go to their next class.

Another trip to the restroom to heat herself dry. Ugh! While doing that she finally figured out what was going on. It must be a water youma! The direct opposite of fire magic. She HATED water youma. She and Kazuma had only fought one of them before. It was at a lake outside of town and the spirit had been creating random whirlpools to try to drown swimmers and boaters. It could have been a disaster, but, as Kazuma told her, water youma were known to have really short attention spans and that kept them from being super dangerous. Kazuma and Ayano had been called in to deal with it anyway. They won, of course, but Ayano had wound up soaking wet and Kazuma got all the credit for their work. He really had done all the work on that case, but it didn't make her feel any better about it.

Well, she was going to deal with this one. Alone! She didn't need Kazuma for every little thing. She could handle some dumb water youma by herself. And that's exactly what she would do tonight. She would come back after dark and defeat the monster. That would show Kazuma that she wasn't just a helpless little girl!

The only good thing to happen to her today was that she only had one class after lunch and it was uneventful. She was careful to stay away from any water for the rest of the day though, just in case. There was one close call where another drinking fountain in the hallway shot a blast of water just as she happened to pass by. Luckily, it missed her. The teacher examining the stupid thing said it was probably just a random malfunction. Malfunction? Ha! She knew what she was dealing with now and it was no malfunction!

Ayano managed to make it home from school without incident and spent the rest of the afternoon in sword training with Enraiha and planning how she was going to destroy that evil youma. By the time she finished her plan of attack, it was almost dark and she was ready to go on the hunt.

"Where are you going at this hour, Ayano?" She was so close to being out of the house when she heard her father's voice. So close.

"Ummm, hello father! I was, ummm, I was just going out for a walk around the compound. Yeah! Just clearing my head! Ummm, bye!"

With that, she left. She did walk around the compound once, just in case her father was watching. She really could have told her father about the youma and that she was going to take care of it, but he probably would have insisted that Kazuma go with her and she couldn't have that! Besides, if she told him about the youma he'd insist on hearing the details of her day and that was way too embarrassing! Maybe she would tell him the whole story after she came home victorious after defeating the evil youma.

Entering the school a short time later, she found it a little hard to see. There were very few lights on, just a few EXIT signs. She couldn't turn on the lights without drawing attention to herself, so she settled for a little fireball in her upturned hand. That would do, at least for short distances. Now it was time to find that youma!

As she walked slowly down the first hallway, Ayano failed to notice the water fountain until a thin stream of water shot out and hit her right in the ear!

"I HATE WATER YOUMA!" she shouted, her voice echoing down the hall.

"It's not a water youma". She recognized Kazuma's voice behind her immediately, of course, but she still jumped a little, not expecting to hear it just then.

She turned to face him her fireball casting an eerie glow over both of them.

He looked her over to make sure she was okay, noting that half of the hair on her head was wet from that last blast of water. Even all messed up he thought she looked adorable.

"What are you doing here? I didn't ask you to come."

"Well, Jugo called me and said that you were acting strangely. He said that you had left the compound without telling him and he was worried, so he wanted me to find you and make sure you were okay.."

"How did you find me?"

"Well, if you remember, I find things to earn a living. Once I tracked you to the school, I just followed the wreckage."

She looked behind them at the school doors, which were a bit charred. They had been locked when she went to open them and she kinda-sorta burned the lock a little bit to get it open. Looking at it now, she thought maybe she might have used just a teeny-tiny bit too much fire.

She shrugged it off in front of Kazuma though. "It's no big deal. It's not like I burned the doors off their hinges.

He gave her one of those 'Are you a silly girl, or what?' looks. You might as well have burned them off. Either way, Jugo will still have to buy them new doors."

"Well, that's between me and my father. I don't see what business it is of yours."

"True, true, but I thought I'd point it out to you anyway. So, why are you here again?"

"Weren't you listening? I'm here to take care of a water youma. This one is mine, so you just stay back. Or better yet, go away!"

"Weren't you listening? I told you it wasn't a water youma."

"How do you know that?"

"Well, for one thing, water youmas can't survive for long away from a large body of water, like a lake or the sea." He turned his head as if searching for something. "Do you see a large body of water around here? Maybe we should check the second floor?"

"Ha ha ha, Mr. SmartGuy. If it's not a water youma, then what is it?"

"It's a water sprite."

She looked at him, confused. "What's a water sprite?"

"Remember when we were here chasing ghosts and found an pixie instead? Well, this is the same kind of thing, only it's water sprite and not air pixie."

"Why would it be targeting me at school today?"

"Dunno. Water sprites enjoy mischief, just like their air cousins. They tend to stay near bodies of water too, so I don't know why one would be here."

"Well, whatever it is, I'm going to make it pay. Enraiha!" As quick as that, her flaming sword was in her hand and she was ready to do battle. Almost as quickly, Kazuma had a gentle, but firm grip on her sword arm.

"You know, not every problem is solved with violence. Did you ever think to try to talk to it?"

"Talk to it? I can't even find it! Nothing but hit-and-run attacks all day. How am I supposed have a conversation with it?"

She should have recognized the glint in his eye, but she didn't. It must have just been too dark.

"You can call water sprites and they will come to you if they are in the mood."

Enraiha blinked out of existence and the fireball reappeared in Ayano's hand.

"How do I call them, then?" She was getting impatient. She didn't want to be at this all night. She had homework!

"You have to talk to them in their own language. Humans can't normally do this, but there is a way. This is going to sound odd, Ayano, but to call them you need to get a mouthful of water and gargle it."

"What? That can't be right. That sounds stupid."

"Listen, do you want to take care of this on your own or not? I'll do it for you if you can't handle it."

She gave him a suspicious look before she turned and headed to the drinking fountain. If she got a face full of water this time, Enraiha was coming out again.

"Time out, sprite! Let her get a drink and then we can talk!" he shouted down the hall. That should have been a dead give-away, but Ayano wasn't thinking.

She bent down and eyed the faucet warily before reluctantly bending over and pulling in a mouthful of water, holding it in her mouth, but not swallowing. Lifting her head, she began to gargle. Nothing happened. She was doing it and nothing happened. Still staring at the ceiling and gargling, she lifted her hands and let them drop. The universal sign of "What now?"

"Water sprites don't hear very well, so you'll want to-you'll want to walk down the hall while you do it. There's a-a better chance of it hearing you."

Well, he's the expert, she thought as she began walking towards the end of the hall. He sounded a little strangled, but maybe that was because her hearing was a bit off from the gargling.

She got to the end of the hall and...nothing. She swallowed the water and turned around. Enough of this! What she saw when she turned around made her burst into flame.

Kazuma was laying in the middle of the hall, laughing his ass off! At her! She was such an idiot. She should have known better. She stalked back over and stood above Kazuma who was still paralyzed and out of breath from laughing so hard. She fought the urge to turn him into cinders on the spot.

"Come here, little sprite" he wheezed in a cajoling little baby voice, "gargle, gargle, gargle". Tears streamed out of his eyes as he lost control again. Ayano closed her eyes and counted to a bazillion.

Ten minutes later, Kazuma had gotten himself back under control. Mostly.

"Are you finished now?" Such a cold voice coming from someone who as on fire was very odd, he thought.

"Ye-yeah. I'm okay now. Hey, sprite, come on out!"

A gurgle came from he drinking fountain and a short burst of water formed itself into a female waterform about 12 inches tall. It had a shape like a tiny woman, but there weren't any facial features. Ayano could see through it too. She also noticed that it stayed on Kazuma's shoulder and was leaning away from her.

"It's your flame, Ayano. She's afraid of it. She doesn't want to turn to steam."

Ayano let the flame fade, but the sprite still leaned away from her.

"What's her name?"

"Water sprites don't have names. 'Sprite' will do." The sprite leaned over and whispered something in Kazuma's ear.

"She wants to know if you are going to hurt her. She says she wasn't trying to harm you, she was lonely and just wanted to play."

"No, I promise not to harm you, Sprite." The little water sprite was so cute Ayano couldn't hold onto her anger.

"Sprite also says thank you for saving her from the bag, whatever the hell that means."

Ayano was confused again before she remembered. "Oh, I remember! You were in that bag of seawater that my toothpick punctured!" Sprite nodded, but now Kazuma was confused. He just shook his head.

"I don't even want to know what any of that means."

Ayano had a temper on her, but she was also quick to forgive. This poor Sprite got dragged here by mistake and was probably missing her home. She reached out an upturned hand to Sprite, slowly, so as not to scare her. "Come here, Sprite, I won't hurt you." Sprite dropped lightly into Ayano's hand. "That's it."

"I bet you miss being home, huh?" Sprite nodded. "Where is your home? Sprite pointed, and with a gurgling little voice said "Sea!" Not being around people very often, water sprites didn't seem to have picked up much in the way of vocabulary.

"Well then, we will just have to take you home then, right Kazuma?"

Kazuma flew them there on a breeze with him holding Ayano and Sprite sitting on Ayano's shoulder and laughing her watery laugh in delight as they flew along.

Before they knew it, they were at the sea. It was dark with only a few lights on back at the beach, but Kazuma landed them safely at the end of a pier.

"Later, Sprite."

Ayano held Sprite up to eye level. "It was nice to meet you, Sprite, but next time you find yourself at my school, please just say hi instead of getting me all wet. Okay?"

Sprite seemed to understand that and she nodded enthusiastically. Before hopping off Ayano's hand and landing with a splash in the ocean, she leaned forward and gave her rescuer a watery little kiss on the cheek. Then she was gone.

Kazuma gazed out at the ocean even though he could only see the whitecaps on top of the waves in the darkness. He suddenly felt a shove and the next thing he knew he found himself spitting out salty water. Treading water and sputtering he looked up at Ayano and opened up his mouth to say something when a stream of seawater went right into his mouth.

Looking down, Ayano said loudly, "Thank you, Sprite!". Then she looked down at the drenched Kazuma, still treading and spitting out water. She gave him a sweet smile before turning and walking back to the beach to wait for him to take them home.