“Give me a moment,” Amadhay gasped, heaving deep breaths.
Racing Sha’adahk, she had found, was forcing her to push even her Gift to win. On the plus side, their races had helped her reach a speed she hadn’t even known was possible for her, even if she couldn’t use it for extended time periods without getting winded. On the down side, she was almost positive that the arachin wasn’t going at his full speed, which meant that he was still faster than she was.
“You need to get your durability up,” Sha’adahk advised her. “If you stop every time you get tired, you’ll never get faster.”
“But if I keep going when I need to stop, I’ll kill myself,” Amadhay argued.
“I’m sure you can find a median,” he said drily, stretching out all eight legs.
Amadhay watched, as always, with vague interest, having never before had the chance to fully appreciate the body of an adult arachin. Essebelle was still youth and her legs were still gangly and awkward where Sha’adahk’s were long, thick, fast, and powerful. His abdomen was easily twice the width and length of his torso. Even his torso was different from Essebelle’s, which was to be expected in that not only were they different genders, but they were different creatures. Essebelle was a smaller, but more deadly black widow while Sha’adahk was a much larger camel spider, which, according to Sha’adahk wasn’t even a spider. His arms, as she recognized them, weren’t so much arms as they were sensory organs that, due to his strange Feral state, had hands attached at the end. He rarely used them unless absolutely necessary, which made life harder on him.
She really felt for him despite their bad past. Sure, he had talked her into betraying her sister so that the Palnoki could kidnap her, but that was all in the past. Now they were rather close friends. Not as close as she was—or at least had been before the big blow up—to Ribbon or even Kimiko, but definitely friends. She felt comfortable around him in a way that she normally didn’t around arachins, given their Feral state. She had always been taught by the aelfen nobility tutors that they were less than her, and she had found that they were correct. Arachins were Ferals and Ferals weren’t really people, and to be honest, despite their friendship, even Essebelle fit into that category of not-people-but-not-animal. They had only seemed to be good as mindless guards and merciless vigilantes. Hanging out with Sha’adahk had completely changed her mind. It had even made her wonder if all Ferals deserved more respect than they were given.
But she wasn’t going quite that far just yet. Arachins were one thing. Most of them were still normal-ish from the waist up. Lupines weren’t nearly as evolved. There was no shame in using them as steeds. It wasn’t as if they were able to speak against their use like arachins could.
“Come on. Let’s go again,” Sha’adahk demanded, standing up at his full height of 9 ½ feet tall. Amadhay looked up at him and sighed, trying to make herself taller than her own 5 feet.
“Fine, let’s do it,” she agreed, getting herself in the ready position to race him.
“Go,” Sha’adahk said before he started running, his legs propelling him forward at unnatural speeds. Amadhay took the moment to activate her Gift and followed after him for a few clicks before overtaking him at a turn. The sand around the Sand Castle, as they called this base, was difficult on Amadhay, shifting underneath her feet. She had a faint suspicion that this was Sha’adahk’s homeland because the sand was easier for him to run on. Though, of course, that wasn’t the only reason he was so fast. She had a suspicion that he had a similar Gift to her own, which was strange considering she had seen almost all of him and hadn’t seen any spoor to indicate that he had a Gift and especially since it was rare for animal-kind to have a Gift, and closer to impossible for Feral ones.
Feeling more than she could hear or see him, she knew that Sha’adahk was gaining on her again as they ran up the hill that separated the Palnoki from the rest of the people around this beach. She pushed herself into that speed that tired her and felt Sha’adahk slow. Everything around her, except him, slowed so that it wasn’t even moving. She took a deep breath, loving the feel even as it hurt. It burned at her skin, not just her lungs, to move this fast. It was as if she were running through fire even though it never left a mark on her.
She felt amazing as she ran up the hill. She knew even though it didn’t feel different, aside from feeling as if she could almost fly, that she was moving faster than even Scarlet could see. She was moving faster than cyber-tech, which was said to be the fastest speed. She was the fastest speed. She loved it. It was freeing, it was wonderful, yet it still wasn’t enough. Sha’adahk was catching up with her as she went down the hill, even in this speed. He always did.
He was right beside her when they hit the finish line, which was the same spot they had started. She dropped her Gift the moment they got there and fell to her knees, gasping for breath again. Sha’adahk just watched her as she choked on the air she was trying to breathe. She coughed, her eyes watering, and pressed her forehead against the sand, forcing air into her lungs.
“We should stop for today,” he suggested, stretching his front legs. “You need rest.”
“No,” Amadhay panted through her gasps. “Not yet. I’ve almost got it.” She was sure of it. She could taste a higher speed. She was so close to it. She just needed a little more push and she could get it.
“No you don’t,” he denied her. “Not today. Today you need sleep.”
“No,” she argued. “Today I need to go faster. I can beat you. I know I can.”
“And you will,” he agreed, nodding his head. His fangs clicked, telling her that he was smiling at her. They only ever clicked when he was doing his equivalent of a smile. “Just not today. Trust me on this. You need to sleep or your body will never do any better.”
“You were just telling me to keep going, that I needed more endurance.”
“And now I am telling you to rest. You’ve done too much today.”
“I don’t feel like I’ve done anything,” she claimed, punching the ground before she sat up on her heels. “I don’t feel like I’ve done anything since I’ve been here, Sha. I’m not getting anywhere. I’m the same as when I came here, no, I’m worse. I almost got taken out by a crappy magician and his pet chameleon. Me. I did. I can’t just sit around and do nothing, it’s not me.”
Sha’adahk gave her a long look. “I don’t think I’m the one you need to tell these things to. We both know this isn’t about this. You are obviously getting faster.”
“You’re the only one who will listen,” she said dejectedly.
He shrugged. “Then make them listen. You’re good at forcing situations your way.”
“No, that’s Atlas,” she said acidly. Sha’adahk gave her another long look, which made her look away. “I don’t know what to do.”
“Stop avoiding the problem,” he suggested. “Racing me is fun, I’m sure, but it won’t fix anything.”
“It fixes me being bored all the time,” she disagreed, touching one of his legs. “I like racing you.”
“I know. But I don’t like your orneriness. So go and fix your problems.” Sha’adahk nudged her with one of his legs. “When you get rid of those problems, you’ll be able to go as fast as you want.”
Amadhay was pretty sure that he wasn’t serious, that her ‘problems’ weren’t what was making her unable to go any faster. That was probably a physical or mental or magical barrier that had absolutely nothing to do with her arguments with Atlas and Ribbon. Her anger with Kimiko though, that definitely had to do with those arguments. So did her apparent ‘orneriness,’ as Sha’adahk put it.
She supposed that she could be the bigger person this time. Maybe.