Having spotted that Eliza had broken away from the others, Kayli made note to speak with her. It was something she'd intended to do eventually anyway. After chatting with Penny she would part ways and step into the cabin to see how things were going. From the sense she was getting, not well. Staying silent for a moment she would eventually step up.
"Eliza... Are you feeling alright?" She would ask with a slight air of concern.
Eliza flinced, her head snapped over to look at Kayli. "I-I don't know- I shouldn't be- Everything is fine- Everything is not fine- I have to- I-I can't-" The witch was trembling, her breathing uneven as she continued mumbling. The more she was entrapped in her thoughts, the more anxious she felt. Felt like some animal trapped in a cage. Everything was fine. So why wasn't she fine? Has this even happened to her before?
Seeing that the girl was going through some kind of breakdown, the healer would hold a hand up. "It will be alright. Let's be calm." A circle of magic would draw on the floor around them. The circle would glow with a warm light as Kayli's magic focused into Hallowed Ground. A feeling of calm filled the space. She didn't sense any mental mutations at the moment, but if any were there they would be surpressed. Psychic magic worked to try and relax the witch's mind as her suggestion did its work.
As Kayli's healing magic worked on calming her down, Eliza focused on taking deep breaths. In. Out. In. Out. Eventually, her anxiety attack stopped. The witch's grip on her poor bee plush loosened up. She looked back to the other girl with a crooked smile. "T-Thank you, Kayli."
Her magic doing its job the girl smiled softly. "You are very welcome. What's going on? Do you need help with something?" She didn't want to pry too much, but whatever was going on seemed to be pretty dramatic. She certainly hoped that returning the Soul Jar hadn't contributed. As unlikely as it may be.
"Well my date didn't end well and I was left alone with my thoughts for more than five minutes," Eliza explained with a frown. "I can't even relax here. I'm so used to things being okay before everything goes wrong, and prioritizing everyone's safety over just calming down and having fun. Hell, I should be used to nothing going the way it should but I'm...not." She sighed. "I'm worried I might have to leave before something happened. Misfortune's a bitch to me for some reason, and I don't want to be the cause of dismay."
Perhaps Kayli's positivity made it a bit harder for her to understand the sentement. To be sure the feeling of futility did happen to her at times. People reacted differently to that kind of stress. "Can I help in any way?"
"...I don't know." Eliza appeared conflicted, but then her expression softened. "Well, can you stay by me? Atleast until I know I won't freak out again."
"Of course. And if you need anything just let me know." She would answer with a smile.
Eliza smiled back. "Thank you."
"Let's go for a walk and get away from all this here. As you suggested I don't think you should be alone right now. How does that sound?"
The witch nodded. "Y-Yeah, that sounds good!"
"Great. Let's see..." She would look at the scheduled events. "How about some casual ice skating? I haven't done that in years."
"Oh, that sounds fun!" Eliza's eyes lit up at Kayli's suggestion. "There was a skating rink in our town back home, and me and my brothers-" She pause mid-sentence in realization. Her brothers. How long has it been since she heard of them? "Me and my brothers used to hang out there alot on our free time. I hope they're still okay." She sadly smiled.
"Well, maybe some day you can go see them now that you have your Soul Jar back." The two would walk in the direction of the lake.
Rose, Iris, and Connie would arrive at the lake for ice skating just as many others were. Taking a look around the twins would spot Kayli walking up just after she'd finished speaking with Penny. "Kayli, over here!" She raised up an arm and waved the white haired girl over.
The many things running through the white haired girl's head were interrupted by her name being called out. Setting aside her thoughts for a moment she would scan across the area and quickly spot her friend. Approaching with a smile she addressed the three. "Hello Rose, Iris. A friend of yours?" She would ask looking over to Connie.
"Yes, this is our friend Connie. " She would step back and move her friend forward just a bit.
"That's so? It's a pleasure to get to meet you Connie. Have you been enjoying the event so far?" Despite the nightmare girl's usual apprehension toward new people, this girl didn't seem to set off the usual nervous response so strongly. Perhaps it her cheerful tone or inviting nature.
“I-It’s nice to me you, too, Kayli,” Connie would reply with a smile. The twins’ friend seemed to give off an exceptionally soothing aura, which made the normally timid girl feel extremely relaxed and secure. It wasn’t exactly the same level of reassurance Mia’s presence provided, but it was certainly close. “O-Oh, yes!” she added with an enthusiastic nod when asked if she was enjoying herself. “R-Rose and Iris have been nice enough to do s-some of the events with me and it’s been s-so much fun! W-Well, except for that one scary part… O-Oh, but, uh, t-they said that maybe you could h-help us learn how to ice skate?”
Resisting the urge to ask about the “scary part” the girl would look out over the ice. After a moment she would nod. ”Yes, I believe I can do that.” She would step over to a shelf and look through a bit to find some skates that should fit each of them. ”Try these and let me know if they fit.” She would take a seat on a bench and try on the pair she’d picked out for herself.
“T-Thanks,” Connie replied after being handed a pair of ice skates. Taking a seat next to Kayli, she began putting them on. “T-They fit great!” she beamed. “S-So, uh, h-how long have you known Rose and Iris?” Connie asked hesitantly. While she was somewhat aware of the twins’ strange circumstances (and Hilde’s as well), much still eluded her, and even what she did know was more than a little confusing.
"I've known them as long as they've been alive. I was affected by the same magic that changed them. It was somewhat my fault, so I'm sorry if that caused any problems." She would explain vaguely to the twin’s friend.
Rose and Iris would get their own skates on.
“I-I see…” Connie said softly. “S-So, umm, are you, I-I mean, did you u-used to be the one who, uh, c-created Hilde…?” the timid girl asked, a bit unsure of the exact terminology to use.
”I… She gave it some thought for a bit. ”Contributed.”
For a moment, Connie simply reflected on Kayli’s somewhat ambiguous answer. “O-Okay, well, uh, i-it looks like we’re all set, s-so should we get s-started?”
Kayli would smile. ”Of course. And sorry if that answer isn’t all that clear. It’s rather complicated and I don’t entirely understand what all occurred.” She would help and guide the three to the ice and help each one out. Using her magic to create some barriers, she gave them a sort of railing to hold onto. ”Let’s start out by just getting used to standing and stepping."
Over the next several minutes she would instruct and guide them through how to skate and fall should they start to lose balance. Moving the barriers to move them they would adjust to moving about on the ice. As they became more accustomed she would encourage them to try letting go every now and then.
At first, Connie’s trembling legs made it difficult for the poor girl to even stand on the ice, but with the help of the barriers, as well as Kayli’s gentle instructions and kind words of reassurance, she was soon able to progress from standing to actually skating, albeit while still holding onto the barrier railing for support. “I-I think I’m g-getting the hang of this!” she announced happily. “N-Now I just have to s-see if I can do it without h-holding onto s-something…” Tentatively taking her hand off the railing, she let her momentum carry her across the ice. She didn’t want to try moving under her own power just yet. For now, she just wanted to try standing on the ice without support. Although she wobbled a few times, Connie was relieved to find that she was able to recover her balance, and once she felt comfortable, she slowly began to skate using slow, careful motions. “I-I’m skating…” she whispered to herself as a big smile spread across her face. “I-I’m really skating!” Moving over to Kayli, she took the white-hair girl’s hands and gave them a gentle squeeze. “T-Thank you so much for t-teaching me!”
Throughout, Kayli moved between them to steady each when they started to lose balance. Rose tumbled once, unharmed. When Connie came up to her teacher, Kayli smiled warmly. "Of course." She would keep pace with them as they began to more easily move around. "So are you from Penrose or did you come due to events going on?"
“N-No, I’ve lived in P-Penrose all my life,” Connie replied. “B-But I only became a m-magical girl a few m-months ago. I-It was really hard at f-first,” she continued. “B-But thanks to my b-best friend, Mia, a-and all the new f-friends I’ve made, t-things have been getting better. H-How about you?” she asked. “H-Have you been l-living in Penrose long?”
Nodding to the question. "Many years. This magical stuff is still pretty recent for me too, but I'm older than I look. Kind of in an odd spot now though." There was a slight pause before she would clarify. "I'm trying to figure out my place. I know I would like to support others. Need to get myself settled into a home first I think."
“Y-You don’t have a home?” Connie asked, frowning slightly.
"Not currently. I can get one though so I'm not too concerned with that." She would skate around a bit before coming back. "I have a place to stay right now so I'm not on the streets if you were worried about that."
“O-Oh, that’s good,” Connie said with a smile, clearly relieved that the girl wasn’t completely homeless. “M-Mia and I live at the orphanage,” she explained, “b-but we could probably let you stay for a f-few days if you had no place else. T-That’s what we did for a f-friend of ours who got hurt and n-needed a place to recover.”
”That is very kind of you. Noting she was in an orphanage, she pondered a bit to herself. Once she had a place of her own perhaps she could offer them a place to stay. Would need to get to know them more first though. ”I will keep that in mind. How do you like it there?”
“I-It’s nice enough, I g-guess,” Connie answered, looking a bit uncertain. “I-I mean, we have our own room, a-and the s-staff treat us well, b-but, uh, there are a l-lot of b-bullies there… M-Mia does her best to k-keep them from b-being mean to me, b-but then she gets in t-trouble, and I feel b-bad, because I-I’m the reason for it… she added, her countenance taking on a more sullen appearance.
Easily able to tell that Connie was telling her the truth, she put a finger up to her lips for a few seconds. ”I see. Well...” She would ponder for a while more, but what she was thinking couldn’t really be done, at least not without some kind of intervention. Probably best not to jump to conclusions though. ”If you had a choice what kind of place would you like to live in?”
Connie thought for a moment. “W-Well, um, I g-guess someplace like where we are n-now? I-It d-doesn’t have to be all that big,” she added. “I-I’d just like it to be safe.”
"Makes sense." She would admit.
With their conversation concluded for the moment, Connie took some time to look around the sizable ice rink. She giggled when she saw Dan in his hockey gear, and waved to him and Lily as she skated past them. “T-This is s-so much fun, isn’t it?” she asked the twins who were skating on either side of her. Although I wish Mia was here, too, she kept to herself. Of course, her best friend was probably having a wonderful time with her date, Connie reflected with a smile, and that was really the most important thing. Indeed, she found she couldn’t keep from blushing just thinking about it. I’m just so happy for her, and she deserves it for having to take care of someone like me for so long.
"This is fun once you get the hang of it. You think Penrose has a rink or lake for this?" Iris would admit. She would turn to Kayli who had the more likely chance of knowing.
"I believe there is a rink. We'll have to see if it's still running." With the way things were going in Penrose there was no telling if it was open or not.
“Y-Yeah!” Connie agreed. “I-It would be r-really fun to go there together if it’s s-still open. I-I don’t know about you guys,” she added, “B-But I can’t wait until things s-start getting back to normal.”
A chuckle escaped Kayli’s lips. ”I don’t know if normal applies to us, but it would be nice to see things return to how they were in some fashion.”
“I-I guess you’re right about us n-not exactly being normal, any more,” Connie conceded. “I-I used to h-hate that this happened to me, but now I’m k-kinda glad it did. I-I’ve been able to make s-so many wonderful friends since becoming a magical girl, l-like Rose and Iris, Lily, Faith, Emily, oh, and Amanda!” she added, waving to the dream magician as they skated by her group.
Amanda's eyes widened. Seeing Connie out ice skating, she excitedly waved back, earning the interest of the nightmare witch skating next to her.
"Friend of yours?" Maribel asked.
"The brunette over there's Connie, the nightmare magical girl I told you about."
Maribel's eyebrows rose. "Really now?" She had been wanting to meet the girl, but from what she was told, Connie was easily spooked. And with the haunting air around the witch, she didn't want to scare her away. Regardless, Maribel carefully skated over to the other group. "Pardon me, but you're Connie, right?"
“T-That’s r-right,” Connie replied to the somewhat imposing woman. “I-It’s, uh, n-nice to meet you,” she added with a shaky wave. “U-Ummm, are y-you a f-friend of Amanda’s?”
Maribel gently smiled. "Well, yes. She's the one who told me about you~" She quietly explained, not wanting to scare Connie. "I'm Maribel, the Witch of Nightmares. I've been looking forward to meeting you."
“R-Really?” Connie asked, somewhat surprised. “W-Why would you w-want to m-meet me?”
"Why wouldn't I~? It's not every day you meet someone with the same magic as you!" Maribel skated around Connie with an excited grin, then back to her side. "Maybe you needed a mentor~"
“M-Mentor?” Connie echoed, frowning slightly. “Y-You m-mean you w-want to h-help me w-with my m-magic?” The idea of having someone who shared her specialization give her pointers and advice was certainly an appealing one, but Maribel seemed a bit… unnerving… Was this really someone Connie should trust? Then again, she seemed to be friends with Amanda, so maybe she just looked creepy?
Maribel genuinely smiled. "Mhm! I'd be happy to!" Though seeing as Connie appeared unsure, she continued to explain. "I know you might feel off-put by me, but this is something i've never expected, two nightmare specs in one...century? Well whatever. Maybe my last incarnations were more lucky, but it seemed nice to get to know someone like you. I did hear you were the meek type, and I wanted to help you overcome such fears." She looked back to Connie. "That is, if you desire such."
“O-Oh, uh, y-yes!” Connie confirmed after a moment. “I-I’d l-like that v-very much! I-It’s b-been r-really d-difficult, b-but lately I-I’ve been w-working on o-overcoming s-some of m-my p-phobias,” she explained. “L-Like, j-just a f-few w-weeks ago, I t-took a r-ride in a h-helicopter, e-even though I-I’ve always been t-terrified of f-flying. I-I’ve s-still got a l-long w-way to go, s-so I-I’d be h-happy to have a-any h-help you c-could give!”
Kayli only knew the little bit about Connie that her Ally had told her, so this information about nightmare magic was new. It may explain Connie's hesitancy. "Seems like there's been an influx of dream magic lately. I'm sure there's a lot to learn about it." She wanted to encourage Connie to learn. Such a magic surely was difficult to master on one's own.
The twins had been chatting between one another for a while the others talked. After a bit they had an idea. First they would check with their friend though. "Uh, Connie... Would you..." Rose stopped for a moment and moved up close to whisper. "I'm not sure how to ask without just saying so... Do you hope to be adopted some day?"
“U-Uhh, I g-guess?” Connie replied, while nervously playing with her hair. “I-I mean, I a-always w-wanted to b-be adopted by a l-loving family, b-but I’m s-sixteen now, a-and I’ve b-been l-living at the orphanage my whole l-life, s-so I’ve k-kinda given up h-hope that a-anyone would ever adopt me b-before I t-turn eighteen…”
Rose would let out a long Hmm sound as she thought about it. How the whole adoption process worked was beyond her. Maybe Kayli knew. She would look at the older girl for a moment who had turned her attention back to Eliza who had been skating nearby, listening casually. Then it hit her. Flailing for a second she stopped herself and she stepped back. ”Ah I see. Yes. Well maybe it’s not too late. I bet you’ll get somebody before then.” She tried not to give away that she had an idea, but she wasn’t the most subtle.
“Y-You really t-think so?” Connie asked, wondering if her friend knew something she didn’t. “I-It would be a n-nice Christmas p-present,” she added with a hopeful smile.
The Spirit girl would nod. ”It would wouldn’t it.” She began to hatch a plan. Would need to get away and track down someone a little later.
"Hah, that's funny." Eliza finally spoke up, with the topic of an orphanage brought up. "Before I became a magical girl, my dad worked in an apartment turned orphanage. My brothers and I would sometimes help out, at least until I moved away." She frowned slightly. "I didn't even think about them until now. I could say I miss them, but I'm probably considered dead at this point. That or the monsters from that damn fog got to them." The witch chuckled dryly.
“T-That’s awful!” Connie gasped. “C-Can’t you at l-least check to s-see if t-they’re all r-right?” the visibly worried girl asked.
"...I don't know. I mean, that's all the way out of state." Eliza shrugged. "I'd say I can't leave Penrose, but I don't know if my contract with Cindy still stands after Maura got my soul jar back."
“O-Oh… I s-see…” Connie frowned. She felt bad, but she really didn’t know what else to suggest. “U-Umm… I, uhh, r-really l-like your outfit,” she told Eliza after a moment, in an attempt to turn the conversation to a hopefully more positive topic. “I-I’m Connie, b-by the way,” the timid girl added, raising a trembling hand. “A-Are you o-one of A-Amanda’s friends?” she asked, looking over to the dream magician.
Eliza looked down to her outfit. "Oh, this? Uh...thanks." she shook the other girl's hand with a crooked grin. "I'm Eliza. Wait, you were at the raid, weren't you? I saw you with Amanda the last time we were here."
Speaking of the magician, looking over, Connie would see Amanda trying to keep her balance. She did nearly faceplant against the rink, but rift-hopped herself back straight.
“I-It’s nice to m-met you, Eliza,” Connie told the witch as they shook hands. “A-And yes, I-I w-was there h-helping my f-friend Ronin,” she confirmed. Then she saw Amanda almost fall face-first on the ice. “O-Oh, g-gosh! A-Are you okay, Amanda?!” She asked the dream magician, who seemed to have recovered her balance. “I-If you’ve n-never skated b-before, Kayli’s a v-very good teacher,” she helpfully noted, gesturing to the white-haired young woman.
Kayli’s attention would turn to the girl on the ice. Looking back and forth for a moment she would move around on the ice. ”I am willing to help if you would like. Connie, Roes, and Iris have been wonderful students.” She would skate out a bit toward Amanda to steady her.
"Hey- No, no I'm fine! No I do not need help!" Amanda backed up, trying to wave Kayli off. The nearby Maribel had an idea, and with a mischievous smile, she snuck away for a moment.
"I know I almost lost my balance but I am completely- GAH?!" Before Amanda could finish her sentence, the nightmare witch speed over behind her and picked her up with a twirl. "Got ya, ehehe~!" Maribel giggled, even as her opposite tried reaching over to smack her.
"Don't. DO. THAT! I could've had a heart attack!!" Amanda yelled in embarrassment.
The sudden grabbing of the other girl gave Kayli pause. They seemed to be playing though so she didn’t intervene. ”Well, seems like you’re having fun.” She would say playfully. She wouldn’t intervene unless Amanda asked for it. Her offer would still stand on lessons.
Connie was somewhat startled by Maribel’s pranking of Amanda, and frowned as the dream magician berated the nightmare witch, her expression a mix of confusion and concern. “T-That w-wasn’t v-very n-nice…” she said softly.
Eliza shrugged. "Eh, let them get along. Better them becoming friends than enemies."
“I g-guess that’s t-true…” Connie conceded, although her voice still sounded a bit uncertain. Being the victim of bullying herself, she didn’t like to see it happen to anyone else, especially a friend, but if Eliza thought they were just playing around then maybe it was okay? “S-So, um, h-have you b-been enjoying t-things so f-far, Eliza?” she asked the witch.
"I-" Eliza paused to think. Connie could see her brows furrow, before she returned to a neutral expression. "I've been better. I'll leave it at that."
“O-Okay…” Connie replied, frowning once again as her efforts to create a more positive atmosphere continued to fail miserably. Eliza seemed to be going through a really difficult time, and although Connie didn’t really understand the girl’s situation all that well, she very much wanted to help her. Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be anything she could do.
It was about then that Dan announced that the next event would be soon begin- downhill racing. While Connie had wanted to try all the various events, she found herself a bit hesitant to participate in this one. Still, she had made a promise to herself that she would work hard on overcoming her many fears, and this was a good opportunity to do that… “S-So, uhh, a-are y-you g-guys g-going to p-participate in the r-race, or w-were you p-planning on s-staying h-here?” she asked the members of their (no longer quite so little) group.
Leaning over to her sister, Rose would whisper to her. After a moment Iris would nod and Rose would turn back. "We have to take care of something. We could meet up with you after the racing event." She would offer.
“O-Oh, uhh, o-okay,” Connie replied, looking a somewhat uncertain. “S-See you l-later,” she added, giving the the twins a shaky wave as they departed.
"Depends on what Kayli wants to do, for me. I feel like Amanda's gonna be stuck for awhile." Eliza looked over to the aformentioned, who was being carried like a favorited plush by Maribel.
Kayli would look off in the direction of the race. She would cross her arms and tap a finger on her elbow. "Well, we can head that direction. Maybe do something more casual than racing. But a nice slope like that would be good for some sledding."
“O-Okay,” Connie nodded. “L-Let’s d-do that.” She was somewhat hesitant to leave Amanda alone with Maribel, but Eliza didn’t seem to think the dream magician was in any real danger, so Connie followed Kayli as the white-haired girl led them up the slope to where the race was taking place.
When Gaia and Shane arrived at the slope, they discovered that the racing would not begin for a while yet, but Dan told them that they were still free to do some skiing, sledding, or snowboarding in the meantime. Choosing a pair of snowboards (with their outfits changing to more suitable attire for such activities), they raced down the slope’s various paths, doing a few tricks along the way. The pair had thoroughly enjoyed having the mountain all to themselves, and by the time the main event was getting ready to start they had gained considerable knowledge of the terrain.
“I do hope our practice runs have not given us an unfair advantage,” Gaia said with a playful smirk.
Seeing where everyone else was popping up for the race, Shane shook his head a bit. ”It looks like they’re using a different slope. This should be fun.” The two would make their way up to join the others. They were given the rules which made it sound a bit harder than one might think to win. ”Hm. Well, should we use a sled so we can go together?”
Gaia pondered Shane’s suggestion for a bit, before smiling. “Well, it does allow us the chance to win as a team,” the verdant girl noted. “And it would also allow us the opportunity to get closer to one another,” she added with a wink.
After picking out their sled, the pair took up their positions, Shane in front, and Gaia behind him. Soon enough, Dan gave the signal, and they were off. Due to the somewhat peculiar victory condition for this particular race, it wasn’t necessary for them to be the fastest racer, just faster than half of their opponents. Of course, since it was hard to tell just how many racers were participating, Gaia knew that all they could really do was try to remain in roughly the middle of the pack and hope for the best. As it happened, even that was easier said than done, as most of the racers had apparently missed the part where crossing the finish line first wouldn’t give them first place, and so were now hurtling down the slope as fast as possible. Thankfully, there were still a few who were moving at a more leisurely pace, relatively speaking.
“Looking good, you two!” Gaia called out to Ronin and Miko as she and Shane pulled up beside the twins. “I hope you don’t mind if we get ahead of you!” she added playfully.
Casting out a long, green tendril, she wrapped the vine around a nearby tree and used it to slingshot their sled around it, granting them considerable momentum. It wasn’t long before they’d raced past the twins, as well as the squabbling Mayra and Victoria. Meanwhile, Shane had been using his Earth magic to help guide the sled through a series of banks and curves, not to mention creating the occasional ramp with which to avoid some particularly nasty obstacles. After several exhilarating minutes had passed, the pair finally found themselves at the finish line.
“Well, that was certainly enjoyable!” Gaia said with a melodious laugh. “In fact, I wouldn’t mind taking another shot at it, and try for a more traditional first place finish. But first,” she added, as she helped Shane up. “I am most interested to see who the winner of this competition shall be.”