Billy followed Vanilla into a black stone castle and through the wide open hallways. She led him to an indoor swimming pool filled with crystal clear water. A tall pale woman floated on her back in the center of the pool with her eyes closed; strands of her vibrant red hair floated around her.
“Her?” Billy asked. Vanilla nodded.
“She’s half fairy…,” the white-haired woman said. “…and a Calavera.” Vanilla shrugged. “If it weren’t for her bond with Ballisea, Flutter wouldn’t be as strong as she is.”
“She’s got great hearing though,” Flutter said from the center of the pool. She opened her eyes but continued to float and stare upward. “Hey, Vanilla. What’s the occasion?” she asked. Vanilla stepped into the pool room and walked along the outer edge to get closer; Billy followed.
“This is Billy. The strongest Muerte I could find,” Vanilla said. Flutter straightened herself in the pool and stood up. She focused her attention on Billy and climbed out of the pool. Billy waved at her awkwardly.
“Can he do it?” Flutter asked Vanilla. Billy looked at the white-haired woman too; to see her reaction. She half-nodded.
“With more training. That’s why I brought him to meet you.”
“Do what?” Billy asked.
“I told you,” Vanilla said. She placed a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it gently. “If you can stop Flutter, you can stop Ballisea.” As soon as Vanilla said Ballisea’s name a tall black portal appeared next to Flutter. The giant woman sighed.
“She’s calling me,” Flutter said. She looked down at Billy and nodded at him with a smile. She extended her hand. “Find me anytime you want to test yourself.” Billy shook her hand and noted her frequency so he could find her again; it seemed like that’s why she offered him a handshake.
“Thanks,” Billy said. He did not know what else to say, or what was happening exactly, but he trusted Vanilla to explain it.
“So, he’s your pick?” Flutter turned her attention back to Vanilla. Vanilla nodded. Billy was surprised when Flutter stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Vanilla; the lean woman returned the hug.
“Goodbye, Vanilla.” Flutter said, then she disappeared into the portal without another word.
“I thought I was going to try and stop her?” Billy asked. Vanilla shook her head.
“You’re not ready yet, but I wanted you to meet her now. You asked about time feeling like sandpaper?”
“Yeah..?” Billy nodded but he was confused. He did not know what his question had to do with meeting Flutter. Vanilla lifted her orange dress slightly and stepped out of her white high heels. She walked to the edge of the pool and sat down with her feet in the water. She patted the stone floor next to her and looked up at Billy. He sat down, in jeans, cross-legged.
“I think of time like a river,” she said while staring at the water. “When you freeze time; the river stops flowing.” Vanilla leaned forward and scooped up a handful of pool water. “Hold your hand out.” Billy did; Vanilla turned and dropped a ball of water in his hand. It did not wobble or come apart.
“I’m going to let go; hold it,” she said. Billy nodded and concentrated on the ball of water.
“Ready…3…2…now.” When she said, “now” most of the water rolled off Billy’s hand; he was left with a round drop floating in the center of his hand. He immediately looked at Vanilla.
“What happened?” he asked. Vanilla smiled and scooped up another handful of water. She held the solid-liquid ball between her thumb and forefinger as if she were inspecting a large jewel.
“You’re good at moving around large chunks of time like rocks or people, but…,” She smiled and held the ball of water in front of him with one hand. With her other hand, she grabbed part of it and pulled them apart like an orange. She tossed one half back into the water, then grabbed the other part and broke it in half again. “…you need to remember that all the big pieces are made from smaller pieces.”
“Huh?” Billy asked. He kind of understood how to shape the water now, but didn’t see how it tied to his question.
“When you took in Steven’s soul, your ability grew stronger. You’re more sensitive to the smaller pieces of time.”
“So.. the sandpaper feeling is time?” he asked Vanilla giggled.
“No dummy,” she said playfully, then sighed. “Absorbing a Muerte soul like you did boosts your power. You can feel air molecules now because you’re powerful enough to control them,” she grabbed his shoulder again and squeezed. “You’re powerful enough to kill-,”
“Ballisea,” Billy said. Vanilla shook her head.