Sleight of Hand

“Magic is easy. It’s all a matter of tricking the eye into seeing what you want it to see.” Allen displayed both of his empty hands. “If you do it right, even if they’re looking very hard, they’ll miss it.” He closed his fingers for a moment, then opened them again and handed Rinali a small red rubber ball.

She turned it over a few times, then bounced it against the ground once before catching it again. “What happens if someone does see the trick?” She closed and opened her fingers, copying Allen’s movements, but the ball remained cradled between her palms. “How do you explain that?”

“Then you convince them they were imagining it. Magic isn’t something you analyze — you should just believe. If you think about it too hard, it loses all its fun.” He took the ball back from her and rubbed it between his palms, then showed her his empty hands again. “It’s not as interesting when you know what I’m doing.”

Rinali studied him for a moment, then reached out and pulled the ball from his coat pocket, holding it up from him. Allen blinked at her, then laughed a little, leaning back and scrubbing a hand through his hair. “Ah, you found it.”

“I think it’s all a matter of knowing where to look,” she said, rolling the ball between her palms. “You make it seem so easy.”

“I’ve had a lot of practice.” Allen leaned back, resting his elbows on the steps behind him; the late-morning sun felt good on his face. “I mean, there was a magician in the entertainers I grew up in, and usually one of the girls worked as his assistant, but I picked a few things up –”

“Not just that.” Rinali put her knees together and spread her ankles, leaning forward for a moment. Up close, her hair smelled vaguely like lilac, and like the ozone and dust that followed all Exorcists, like Hebraska’s feathers. “Everything. Allen, you always work so hard, and fighting akuma is so easy for you — but that’s also just what people think they’re seeing, isn’t it?”

Allen scratched his cheek. “I don’t know if it’s all that,” he said. “Depends, I think, on what they’re seeing.”

Rinali pursed her lips. “I think,” she said, “that anything we see about you, Allen, is only what you want us to see.”

Surprised, he blinked at her again. Rinali closed both of her hands around the rubber ball, blew on her fingers, then opened her fingers to show him her empty hands.

“Like that,” she said, and smiled.

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