Ixi was the first to speak again. “I shouldn’t have mentioned that so early. I’m sorry for breaking the mood… really.”
I shook my head. “Don’t worry about it. It’s good to know the rival… both past and present. Now we know basically all we need and can know.” I looked up. “Maybe Jer will show up at the game.”
“I don’t know if I want to see him. I know he’d take a bullet for Zia if he had to… he would never side with me, and I… I don’t want to see what’s become of him.”
“She’s right.” Mark looked up at me. “Kind of like when you couldn’t look anyone in the face after–”
“Mark,” Zeke snapped. “Leo told you not to bring that up, didn’t he?”
He paused, then nodded. “Fine. I won’t mention it again.”
There was another long silence, then Ixi jumped up into the air, making all three of us jump. “Anyways, I have to basically challenge each of you three in a battle of chess. Whoever beats me wins.”
“What if we all beat you?” Zeke asked.
“Then we start over.”
“And if only two of us beat you?” Mark prodded.
“Then you play against each other.”
I sighed. “Alright then, sounds simple enough. I have a board at home. You three wait here… I’ll go bring it.”
“No, no, no.” Mark grabbed my arm. “We’ll use my board. It’s a lot nicer. The chess pieces aren’t that fake plastic stuff.”
I paused, then nodded. “Alright, go get your board.” As he ran, I couldn’t help thinking a lot. Why were we helping her? Why weren’t we questioning a thing she said, just because she proved she could fly? And why COULD she fly, and somehow dance mid-air really well? But I guess everything she said and did, and everything I said and did, all made some weird sort of sense at the time.
Mark came running back after a short period of time. His house was a lot closer to the area than mine. “Actually, it turns out we can’t play here. When I was in the house, I saw my computer’s weather forecast. It’s going to rain, and soon.”
“Which home of yours is closest to this immediate area?”
“That’s Mark’s,” I replied. “If we run we should be able to beat it, right Mark?”
“Right.” We all started running, and made it inside just before the rain started coming down. Neither of Mark’s parents were home, nor was his sister, which meant we didn’t have to explain to anyone where Ixi had come from and how Mark had actually managed to get a girl other than his mother and sister into the house.
Ixi shivered. The rain had accompanied a temperature drop of at least 10 degrees. Mark didn’t seem to pay her any attention. He led us back to his room. “So, who plays you first?”
She thought about this. “How about you first?” she asked Mark.
He flinched, catching my attention, but quickly relaxed. “Okay, sure. Let’s see if I can beat you.”
“Of course you can,” I told him. “You’re better than any of us.”