Chapter 3: Quantum Electrochromodynamics
It took me a while to get used to the fact that this whole place might indeed be a new world. Emotionally, I couldn’t really get used to the fact that I was reborn. In fact, even operating under that assumption, there were discrepancies. For example, the fact that I retained memories of my previous life ran in contradiction to what I knew about being reborn or reincarnation. But then, what did we know about reincarnation? Everything just seemed so absurd.
I decided, for the time being, to accept the world as it was and try to understand it more. After all, a scientist didn’t argue to what was, but rather how it was. Thus, the the point of constructing a three-point plan was to follow it systematically. So, being almost two years of age, I decided to practice with the basics of ‘magic’ and to interact with the language and whatever knowledge I could lay my hands on.
The results were a comprehensive assessment of what could only be described as a fantasy world. Magic, mythical monsters and feudalistic systems were all here, stated as facts. Even though I was dubious, it was only human to start doubting one’s foundations after being subject to constant pressure from their surroundings.
Was I trapped in a virtual reality?
Regardless, I pursued my course to deciphering the contents of that primer on magic. Wind was called when I thought hard enough, but I could neither control the power nor the direction of where the wind went. Apart from wind, I was also unable to summon any other element, such as ‘fire’, ‘water’, ‘earth’, etc. It seemed that basic spells and the foundation of everything else were based upon these four ‘elements’, more complex spells relied on an understanding of these elements.
I wish I could tell them to use the periodic table, then I’d have more choice.
Regardless, I was unable to make any other ‘element’ appear. It was intensely frustrating. Also, it didn’t seem I had unlimited tries, either. I would simply summon wind for a while until I felt sickly-tired. Sometimes I would have no strength to stand after exhausting the limit of ‘calling’ these ‘spells’.
However, like a muscle, my usage of these spells grew in capacity and though in the beginning I could only cast one or two, now I could cast about twenty or so before collapsing. In contrast to my labouring exertions, my parents were as carefree as singing robin.
I observed my parents laughing and carousing around my room.
Ignorance is indeed bliss.
“The harvest festival is coming up soon!” My mother was in high spirits. “We will dance around the ring again!”
Father’s eyes were humorous as he held out a gracious hand. “Will you do me the honour?”
“Oh, my, please, Dias.”
They swept around the room in a wide arc as I tried my best not to heave a sigh. Some people here were trying to learn.
“Rael really loves his books,” Lilanthe commented with a heady grin. “He will be a Court scholar, for sure.”
“Nay, my Rael will be a mighty knight, a triumphal fighter!” Dias announced thunderously.
I’m sorry, father, I will probably be leaning more towards what mother wants.
Dias glanced at me as he sighed. “It’s not good, a man must have the strength to protect the woman he loves. A bookworm is going to be a little on the weak side…”
Is he a mind reader?!
“Words have power,” Lilanthe shot back, “I think Rael has potential!”
Dias tilted his head. “And what did Mariel say about Rael’s potential?”
“Well, she… that is…” Lilanthe trailed off with a worried expression. “I don’t know, Mariel’s disappeared off into Celestials know where.”
Dias trailed a finger down his cheek as he nodded in thought. “Who knows where that woman has gone off to? She could be on the other side of Duine by now.”
“I’m sure she’ll be back, Mariel never misses the harvest festival.”
Dias nodded genially. “Mariel never misses anything to do with food.”
“Unless…” Lilanthe kneaded her hands together as she glanced my way. She gave me a rather fake smile as her brows knitted together in ill-concealed worry.
“Unless there’s something wrong with the kingdom.”
“Nothing’s wrong with the kingdom. Something that big will have reached us by now, don’t worry.”
But as the day wore on, Lilanthe couldn’t help but be slightly infectious with her worry. Dias tried several methods to cheer her up, but with Mariel’s continued absences, Lilanthe grew increasingly depressed.
I’ve noticed that when Lilanthe was worried, she would often cling to me, as if I was some sort of soft toy to be hugged. I would hang limp I her grip, try as hard as I could to read a book, but mostly would be subjected to constant stroking in the process, which made it difficult to read.
So it was in my best interest to cheer her up.
“Cheer up, Mommy.”
The best route is often the most direct.
Lilanthe was startled from her almost catatonic lip-chewing and habitual toddler-petting. Her eyes widened considerably when she heard my first coherent sentence. Instantly, her face was painted with joy, then immediately wracked with guilt.
“Oh Rael, I’m so sorry I’ve been upsetting you.”
I shrugged with a feigned smile. “Don’t worry.” I shrugged.
“Oh, you’re so smart!” I could almost see the gears turn in her mind. “We’ll teach you letters!”
I’ve already learned them, though.
“Oh, it’d be great to teach you everything but after the harvest festival… do we even have time to get a tutor? Can they teach you everything? What about the maid?”
I could really see that my mother was a natural-born worrier. If she kept this up, I was half-afraid she would worry herself into an early grave. Then I would probably follow straight after her. To each suggestion, I gave supremely subtle clues, slightly nodding my head or shaking it when she came up with both reasonable and radical ideas. Honestly, who was the adult here? Wait, that would be me. I was well above her age.
Lilanthe grinned at me and cuddled me close. I caught scent of a sweet fragrance that I realised brought a sense of nostalgia and warmth. I recognised it from before… this was a scent of a mother. It made me feel so safe and secure. Is this a biological effect? Instinctively, my eyelids drooped, but I fought to keep them open and pressed with my small hands to get away from my mother’s embrace.
“Oh, is little Rael getting rebellious thoughts? You’re not at that age yet, before that, hugs!”
…I was squashed into her chest again.
Later that day, Lilanthe’s worrying was soon ended when Mariel, of all people, showed up at the doorstep. She waved a knobbly cane at me and tipped her ridiculously broad-brimmed hat with a pointy top. I didn’t want to say it, because it’s so unscientific, but she looked like a witch in that getup.
“Oh, Lilanthe, how have you been—oh! By the Celestials, I was barely gone for a year, what’s gotten into you?”
Lilanthe wrung her hands. “I’ve been worried sick, when you left without a word after the… you know…”
Mariel spotted me clinging to the staircase, peering down. She had really sharp eyes, that one. “There’s nothing wrong with Rael, it was simply a problem with the crystal,” Mariel told her smoothly. “I thought it was something, but after extensive tests and consulting with Montegro, we concluded it was nothing.”
“Montegro! All the way past the Wastes?”
Mariel laughed. “Well, yes, I couldn’t even find a suitable mount, can you believe it? Some noble bought up all the available ones!”
Lilanthe put a hand to her chest and breathed a sigh. “I’m so glad you here, in any case. Why don’t you come inside? Harvest festival is well on its way, but we were waiting for you.”
Mariel grinned at Lilanthe and patted her on the arm. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” She waved her staff at me and chanted something under her breath that I couldn’t catch. With a startled cry, I was lifted from the ground as a gust of wind lifted me clear into the air!
Dangling in a sky-diver’s ‘x’, I came tumbling to a stop in Mariel’s arms as she hugged me.
“There, there, how was your first flight?”
“Obviously, frightening!” Lilanthe snapped, but her choice words were swallowed back when she saw me grinning from ear to ear. “But… I’m glad Rael is enjoying himself, but never do that again!”
“Oh, you’re just a little worry-wart, a little flying never hurt anyone and look, Rael is excited, maybe he’ll become a Ranked like me. How about it?”
More magic? More phenomena to study? Well, I don’t see why not.
“See? He’s already enthusiastic about it,” Mariel finished with a mischievous grin. “Where’s old Dias?”
Lilanthe stared at Mariel with a puppy scowl for a few more moments, before she relented with a tired sigh. “Oh he’s out and about the festival. Come now, let’s give Rael some new experiences, being cooped up indoors is never a good thing.”
Mariel’s head bobbed up and down in avid agreement. “Ah, something we can both agree with, learn by doing.”
It goes without saying that this was the first time I was out and about. As we crossed past the wide double doors, I saw servants and workers in the gardens and the lower floor bow respectfully towards us. Several free-standing columns lining a gravel path were surrounded by a well-kept garden with flowing water babbling happily.
Following the theme of using gems for ridiculous reasons, I saw a couple floating above the water, seemingly bobbing up and down with the flow of bubbling water in evenly-spaced fountains. The precious stones acted like they were buoyant giving a fantastic feel to them as they were serenely suspended in these cascading works of art. It made me appreciate, at least in part, the aesthetic pleasure of these artesian waterworks.
Or, that’s probably what I would say if I was a professional art critic.
As it stood, the garden with tangled vines creeping up in a sheltering cover over the promenade really gave the background of the mansion an austere feel. I felt like I was in an immensely wealthy castle, but without the crazy buttresses and function-over-feature walls. It was simply… peaceful.
The path lead directly to iron-work gates that were open and inviting. An ornate carriage was stationed just outside with a prim-looking driver dressed in clean-cut clothes. Lilanthe had changed into a lace dress, with satiny blues and pinks chasing around her figure, giving her the allure of a noblewoman, whilst Mariel, in stark contrast, wore a muted grey robe. I myself was swaddled in plain clothes, with even a miniature jacket.
I felt a little like a doll, but I endured it for the sake of my bubbly mother.
During the ride, I kept one languid ear on the conversation between Mariel and Lilanthe, but most of my concentration was focused on the outside world. Trees and harsh brushes lined the rows in stoic columns, with a dirt path that was ground by the carriage as we whizzed past using purely animal muscle to overcome friction.
I breathed the natural, non-recycled air filled with the wild scents of leaves, foliage and earthy soil. It reminded me of the frontier worlds whenever I needed to touch down planet-side. Even though I loved to explore space, there was a certain charm to walking amongst the surface of nature. Here, I was able to experience things from a non-technological standpoint.
I don’t know whether I thought it was a good thing or a bad thing.
Later, we arrived in the middle of the village, festivities were well on the way. Dancing happened in a wide ring around a massive bonfire as billowing smoke, laughter and music filled the air. Strange instruments composed of beating metal covers over stretched hide accompanied strange cone-shaped flute-like materials that seemed to be carved from wood. Alien music without synthetic sounds permeated the lively atmosphere.
“Isn’t this wonderful? The village has really come alive recently after you’ve come, ‘Lady Lilanthe’.”
Lilanthe rolled her eyes. “I’m sure you would have done the same, if we weren’t available, ‘Magus Mariel’.”
“Oh please, spare me. I hate being cast in the spotlight, look at all those adoring eyes, yuck.”
“You seem to do fine with Rael’s adoring eyes.”
“He’s different. They’re neither adoring nor wily like some of these hapless people.”
“You say one thing, but do the other.”
Mariel, scooped me up. “I will make off with my prize, then, go on, you have another loved one to meet.” She shooed Lilanthe with flickering fingers. “Go to him.”
Dias spotted us from the centre of a ring of people. Instead of dancing around him, these people were supplicating him with various sheafs of paper, or baubles to sell or, in the case of some of the younger, more daring girls, trying to openly seduce him. Some of them stopped when they saw Lilanthe, but a few, with knowing eyes, clung closer to him. Dias reddened and tried pathetically to shrug them away.
I saw Lilanthe’s expression immediately darken. “Yes… I think I will go to him.”
I sent my father a quick prayer and was comforted by the fact that we probably had enough money for the funeral costs.
Mariel grinned slyly at me. “Lesson for the future, though you may not remember it: There is nothing more scary than a woman’s ire. Make sure that you’re never on the receiving end.”
I didn’t have much experience in that area, so if Mariel said so, then I guess it was true. With that blatantly obvious example though, who would be caught dead in such a situation? Mariel hoisted me up to her shoulders and took me through the crowd. I don’t think anybody recognised me, how could they? They sure recognised Mariel, however, and bowed just as respectfully to her as they did to my mother.
For someone that claimed she didn’t like fame, she certainly had a fair share of it, didn’t she?
Mariel whistled a lively tune I could barely hear over the clamour of music and entertainment as she led me to a more slow-moving part of the village square. Dominating the square was a statue of a winged person stretching a hand towards the sky in a graceful gesture.
“That’s Sadriel, the Celestial of Light. They say she takes part in every gift of life. Make sure you thank her someday, when you’re older. It’s said she is especially partial to young followers, the mother of all children.”
I filed away the religious belief into a corner of my brain. Getting to know the local beliefs was a matter of life and death in some places, so this was immensely important information. The books in Dias’ library were filled with information about physical features, abilities and procedures, but was very skimpy on culture.
Mariel continued to lead me away from the celebrations. She smiled and chatted softly. “I’m not a fan of hustle and bustle. I hope you don’t mind me ruining your first Harvest Festival.”
With a sneaky smile, I shook my head.
Mariel looked surprised for a moment and then burst into laughter. “Ah, well, I guess it is right, after all. Montegro can eat my thesis!”
Not understanding, I tilted my head and observed my surroundings. Looking at the village there were many people, but most of the houses were made of mud, with not much to show in terms of bricks or stones used in construction. Roofs were made of simple thatched straw, carefully arranged and varying in quality from high-quality houses in the centre, to the more dilapidated buildings in the direction we were headed in.
“Magus, magus!” Kids dressed in clothes that were more like rags came swarming out as Mariel greeted them warmly. From the inside of her clothes she withdrew food and water that seemed to spawn out of nowhere. I widened at the trick and wondered how it was done.
“Keep this a secret,” she told the kids who nodded solemnly. They took the proffered bread, candy and water and thanked her, dashing off into the alleyways, nooks and crannies in the slum. Did Mariel do this often?
“Ah, one day, I hope you won’t be one of those nobles that neglect the most powerless of people.”
Of course those were nice words, but without money or power, how do you expect me to attempt it?
At the very least, I was glad that Mariel was here keeping me company. A fresh pair of eyes was always good for the soul. Suddenly, I felt Mariel shift slightly as she moved her head sharply to the right. There was a shadow in the corner of a building that flittered out of view.
“Here?” she mumbled. With deft movements, she transferred me to her chest as she unslung her cane from her back and gripped it tightly.
“Aelshir, Divine Protector, come forth and shield me from harm. I beseech you. Saelem jithir nael-thoth!”
Nothing seemed to happen, but Mariel relaxed slightly.
“With this we should be safe—"
“Sekrath, Lord of Emnity, grant me the ability to smite all foes in front of me! Alshakeer litra alum!”
Fire blossomed from his hands as he directed them to Mariel. They slid of harmlessly against an invisible wall. Wow, was this a force-shield-like spell?
“I call upon the Celestial Guardians to confer me divinity. I seek it in the name of Sadriel. Sia uinsal lidianth!”
Streams of brilliant cerulean light gathered from the ground and coursed towards her hand. Frantic, the man in front of us charged, drawing a blade, apparently abandoning any attempt to attack with magic. Dodging the blow smoothly, Mariel placed a hand on the man’s side and whispered something into his ears as his eyes widened.
“Niderath akum sidrath.”
He stumbled back with a cry, his hands spread out in supplication. His legs didn’t look like they worked properly. Did she paralyse him?
“No, please, don’t do this!”
Mariel’s eyes were hard. “You did this to yourself.”
The man collapsed to the ground with a surprisingly hard ‘thunking’ sound. His hands had frozen as they called into fists. What in the world? Are his hands turning to stone? No, his whole body is!
“I should have slain you the moment we met,” he spat out with a seething look. “I’ve always hated you, but you couldn’t resist. You’re nothing! You’re—”
I stared in horror as his mouth was slowly petrified, choking off his last words. His bloodshot eyes were immortalised in hatred. Mariel caught my look and clutched me to her chest, patting me in sympathy.
“I’m sorry you had to see that,” she whispered softly.
You apologised, but… what in the Universe had I just seen?
We got back to the festival in a subdued mood. Mariel was certainly less talkative and I… well I was a toddler that shouldn’t be able to say more than a few words, so I didn’t know what I could do to comfort her. I guess my social skills were not up to par as my technical ones. Still, I did the best I could, given the circumstances and tried to show that what happened didn’t worry me by trying to be a good little kid.
Although, I think that’s probably the wrong way to go about it since Mariel kept sneaking glances at me, as if to check that I was okay. I couldn’t change tactics now that I was staying silent, but I didn’t have to worry as it wasn’t long before Mariel started to perk up as she got closer to the centre of the festival, where Lilanthe and Dias were kicking up a storm at the party’s events.
Before we got to them, Mariel confided in me. “What you just saw was but one part of the world that is hidden from you. There are always people ready to take something from you the moment you let your guard down. Make sure that never happens to you.”
She stroked my head and smiled at me, her actions not at all matching the weighty words she were throwing at me. Mariel’s smile faltered slightly as she laughed bitterly. “It’s funny, whenever I’m around you, I feel like you can understand every word I’m saying, but that’s crazy, you couldn’t possibly understand…” She trailed off as my father came bounding out of the crowd.
Dias was the embodiment of cheer as he greeted us. “Mariel, son, finally you make it back to the festival! How was your little walkabout?”
Mariel shook her head as she flicked a hand dismissively, looking none the more different than if she had taken a leisurely stroll. “The usual. How is my little sister doing with the no-good-of-a-playboy Lord?”
Dias coughed into his hand, his smile collapsing into a weak simper. “Well, it was a little bit of a misunderstanding, you see, with Lilanthe back at the mansion, the village—”
Mariel held up her hand. “I don’t want to hear it.” She patted my head. “This innocent one will never turn into such a scoundrel, right Rael?”
I pretended to grow sleepy, dodging the question neatly whilst the adults argued. I was more preoccupied with the exciting possibilities magic represented. With the unfortunate death of that attacking stranger, I was able to have a glimpse of the potential utility of magic. What kind of scientific endeavours would be possible with the simple application of this magic?
As time passed on, I had upgraded from just having a personal guard, to also having a personal maid. Please bear in mind, I was only four years old at the time. The personal guard was still Talland and the personal maid was Eileen, much to Talland’s obvious joy. Eileen was happy to attend to me, but less than thrilled to be around Talland.
The tutor was delayed by travel, some kind of incident occurred, but the tutor would take over the role of teaching me letters, writing and so on, and teach me the foundations of magic. It was planned that Mariel was going to do that, but it changed when an officious looking summons appeared by literally pigeon-mail. Mariel was not happy in the least, but finally set off with a sour look. She promised to deliver a tutor for me in the meanwhile, which was the aforementioned delayed tutor.
Despite lacking a tutor, I had not spent the last two years unproductively, of course.
Dabbling in the mysteries of magic, I have come to realise that the system here was based on the belief of ‘foundations’. A foundation was the base catalyst for all magic. The inhabitants of this world believed that magic was brought forth from making a ‘contract’ with a ‘deity’.
With the interconnected nature and relationships of these deities, it was hard to master different types of spells because the foundations required support from deities that would often clash in goals. Some deities believed in peace and some believed in war, for example. It would be a miracle to cast more than one type unless you were one of the following:
Young or gifted.
For me, I fell into the ‘young’ category and Mariel fell into gifted. I didn’t know much about Mariel apart from the fact that she was related to my mother and was apparently famous. She was quite tight-lipped about her past, especially around me and apart from the incident at the festival, Mariel never mentioned a word.
Young people were able to cast a lot of spells, if they have the predisposition for it, most children had the ability to cast one or two spells, and people here believed that had something to do with the deities favouring them or trying to attract them to one side or another.
I thought it was a bit different. It seemed that through my experiments, there was a mental barrier associated with believing that a particular ‘god’ or ‘goddess’ presided over magic. The fact was that I was able to cast magic simply by imagining the outcome and willing it to appear. It was no more complicated than that.
I ‘knew’ it was possible to summon wind out of nowhere, so it became so. When I tried to same with fire, I failed. After seeing that person conjure fire out of nowhere, I instinctively gained the ability to do the same, because I could suddenly ‘know’ it was possible. With that framework in mind, it was only a matter of time before I could overcome each ‘elemental’ hurdle and manipulate ‘earth’ and ‘water’.
But since I knew the existence of many more elements, couldn’t I do more? Experimentation was in order… however, when I tried to split water into hydrogen and oxygen with magic, nothing happened. Maybe there was some other condition? I was pleased enough that deities didn’t come into play, though. I didn’t like that religion would be worked into this system. If magic was non-secular, I wouldn’t know what to do.
Of course, the amount of people even able to cast even one spell is apparently one in one thousand, with some tangential guarantee that if you were a descendant of a magus, you could be one too, so magi were mostly composed of aristocrats and wealthy individuals, with some exceptions from commoners that won the genetic lottery, so to speak.
With that in mind, my maid took over the role of tutoring me, during the time it took for the tutor to overcome their trials and reach me.
“Hello, I am Eileen, although we know each other, it is proper for me to introduce myself again as we change roles.”
“Yes, Teacher Eileen.”
Although it was annoying, there were social rules here that conferred appellations to people in various positions. For example, the maid must refer to me as ‘Master’ Rael, because I was the descendant of the ‘Lord’ Dias and ‘Lady’ Lilanthe. I was to refer to her as ‘Eileen’ simply, unless she was a teacher in which case I was to refer to her as ‘Teacher Eileen’. Not really confusing, but it was apparently disrespectful to deviate among these unless you were close friends or family.
“Excellent, young Master Rael. Tell me, what are these letters?”
I pretended to struggle with them as I sounded out the letters and phonetically described them. I drew them with a shaky hand and ‘practised’ writing for about half an hour. Unlike many children my age, I hear, I was surprisingly obedient.
Talland stood at the corner of the room, but even he wasn’t daring enough to interrupt a lesson to try to woo Eileen. Eileen checked my work and nodded.
“Once again… surprisingly normal progress.”
“What’s wrong?” Talland leaned closer.
Eileen glanced at me as I put away the writing tools and pretended not to listen to their conversation. I took out a book and started reading it.
“I get the feeling that Master Rael is pretending to struggle with reading and writing.”
“How is that so? A child can barely understand letters at this age, to understand letters is already considered above and beyond what a normal child can do.”
“I don’t know, for some reason, I feel like Rael can understand everything we say and do… it’s almost like someone older that’s humouring us by doing child-like things. I don’t know how else to explain it. And the way he looks at us it’s almost like… he understands.”
“I heard that genius children are different… not that I know of any, but Rael does seem like one, doesn’t he? Also, how can a child even understand all these letters on their own?”
“He… well he can’t be possessed? Mariel would know wouldn’t she?”
“Of course not! You shouldn’t doubt her of all people!”
“You’re right… maybe I’m overthinking it. He is a strange boy, but he’s so well-behaved I often forget he’s a child. Most children his age would be bawling their eyes out or fidgeting or something…”
“I guess you’re right about that, he’s special.”
I finished reading the chapter and flipped over the page.
You have no idea.
This sort of thing went on for a couple of months. Talland and Dias even tried a few times to get me to hold a practice sword, but Lilanthe was determined not to let me start until I was at least five years of age. Well, I wasn’t keen on actually swinging a sword, so I’m glad that got delayed, even though I’d still do it. I think curiosity may be enough to bring me to try it once, but it seemed like just gruelling exercise to me, so I didn’t want to do it all the time.
After all, that would cut into reading time.
When the tutor got here, I was surprised to see that it was a young girl, no more than a few years older than me. Didn’t she come with Mariel when I was only a year old? Her fiery red hair had deepened slightly and so were her eyes. She stared at me coolly, before curtseying respectfully to my parents.
“Greetings, Lord Dias, Lady Lilanthe, the Kingdom of Dill extends its regards to the Heroes of Canter.”
Lilanthe blushed profusely, whilst Dias rubbed a hand on the back of his head.
“Ah,” Dias began, “you don’t need to bring that old news up, we were only doing what anyone would have done.”
The girl with the long hair shook her head. “Not everyone would have done that… I’m glad to meet you, I do apologise for the delay.”
“No, no, no, we understand that it’s a long journey from the Spire.”
“Yes, well, not everything is ideal, but one must do what they can to make the best of things.”
An awkward silence passed between them. Dias frowned. “What is it that you mean by that, Apprentice Hylia?”
The girl flicked her long hair behind her shoulders as she bowed her head slightly in apology. “I meant no disrespect, but isn’t an Apprentice a little beyond the needs of your child? A simple scribe from the local scribe should be enough and he can enrol to the school when he is of age.”
Dias raised an eyebrow, whilst Lilanthe gave Hylia a confused look.
“Yes… didn’t Mariel tell you who you were assigned to?”
Hylia sighed. “She told me it was a promising candidate, but didn’t tell me exactly whom. Had not the driver been adamant that it was this mansion, I would not have believed him. With all due respect, Lord, Lady, even if you are the heroes, this is well beyond the scope of an apprentice magus. Would you reconsider my assignment?”
Dias rubbed a hand over his face. “Well this is clearly out of my field, so I’ll leave it to my wife. Lilanthe, would you mind accompanying the young lady while I attend to a few matters? The Court has asked me out on patrol again and Lady Chrysale is giving me a headache again.”
Hylia gasped. “The Court?! Lady Chrysale?!”
Lilanthe ignored Hylia’s outbursts and gestured with an open hand. “Won’t you come in?”
As if remembering her manners, Hylia gracefully stepped into the household with reddening cheeks. Feeling a little weary of her already, I walked back to my room and sat down reading a book.
It was a few hours after Hylia had been invited in before they deigned to come to my room. Hylia wore a pleasant smile that soured as she came into the doorway. Looks like she enjoyed the conversation with mother whilst my poor mother was trying her best to drum some enthusiasm into the child.
“Listen,” she said with a gentle tap on her shoulder, “if it doesn’t work out and you’re really sure that this is a waste of time, then I’ll write a letter to my sister and you may withdraw. You must promise me, though, that you’ll take this seriously before I do so, though.”
One could say that Hylia was extraordinarily gifted for her age. Not only that, but making a journey from the Spire to here wasn’t a mean feat. She was mature, elegant and eloquent. However, even though she was mature for her age, that didn’t mean that she didn’t have a limit.
“I must object, Lady Lilanthe! I am positively sure that this will be a waste of time.”
Lilanthe shook her head, disappointed. Hylia grew red, but didn’t yield. I guess the term would be ‘all in’ if we’re going by Earth terms.
“Apprentice Hylia, it’s been such a long journey, it would be such a waste to return straightaway. How about you take a few days as rest? We will need some time to arrange for another more accommodating Apprentice. In the meantime, you will fulfil the role you were assigned to, understand?”
At the cold tone Lilanthe issued, Hylia swallowed audibly and nodded in reply. When Lilanthe left, Hylia sniffed and drew a book out of her coat and plopped herself into a corner and ignored me completely.
That was fine by me, I didn’t need her anyway, I could read just fine. As time passed on, I caught her peeking at me from time to time, but whenever I caught her gaze, she would, quite obviously I might add, duck her head and pretend to read her own book. What was she, five? How childish.
After about the third time this happened, I finally set aside the book and stared passively at her. When she peeked up, I deliberately locked gazes with her.
Hylia finally got the message, she averted her eyes with puffed cheeks.
Resisting the urge to roll my eyes, I simply continued reading. As time wore on, Eileen came back with Talland from shopping and set up in the corner of my room without a word. They didn’t comment on Hylia’s teaching, or lack thereof, and busied themselves with trying to be human statues. Similarly, I also took no mind of them, excepting a nod of greeting to which they warily returned.
Well, I couldn’t blame any of my staff members from feeling a little off-put by an infant basically acting like an adult, but I made sure that any awkward silences were steadily washed away by lengths of monotonous reading. After all, without a more efficient transfer medium, the only way I could siphon information was to absorb them from a book. Without the advantage of a real-time databank, my actions were restricted the knowledge I could memorise. So that’s what I did.
“Why isn’t he crying or making noise or something?”
Neither Eileen nor Talland answered Hylia. Hylia rolled her eyes and put her hands on her hips. “I know you’re following etiquette but I can hardly speak with your young master, so you must in his place, isn’t that the duty of one of his attendants?”
Eileen raised an eyebrow. “When speaking about etiquette, one must demonstrate it themselves first.”
Not for the first time today, Hylia pursed her lips angrily, but with a supreme effort held back barbed words with clenched teeth. Speaking through such teeth, Hylia affected a small smile and tried once more.
“Would you mind showing me to the washroom? Even though I am technically Master Rael’s Tutor, I am also his guest. So, if you would please…?”
Eileen curtseyed in a way that I could only describe as ‘stiffly’. When Eileen left with Hylia, Talland rolled his eyes as he leaned against the wall.
I agreed, but her reaction was understandable, I mean come on, I was only four years old. Barely worth the effort at her level, I’m sure. An Apprentice was probably a high position in her world.
Talland sighed. “We need to go out shopping later in the day, but I’m sure you’ll be alright with Hylia.”
I nodded in reply.
Talland grinned at me. “Sometimes I think you understand everything I say, even if it’s more complicated.”
Once again I nodded. He chuckled and walked out, meeting up with Eileen as she came back. “We’ll wait outside for Hylia. There’ll be Giselle in the kitchen if you need anything,” Eileen called through the door. “Bye Master Rael.”
I returned to reading, enjoying the quiet time to churn through the more complex theorems in magic. I was trying to derive some of the more complex phenomena, when Hylia came back in. She opened the door and stared at me, whilst I did my best to mentally calculate everything since I didn’t have pen or paper.
“Still ‘reading’ aren’t you?”
I would have rolled my eyes, but I kept that impulse suppressed and continued ignoring her. Seeing that neither Tallan or Eileen was here, Hylia rapidly dispensed of the etiquette and sat cross-legged on the ground, glaring at me.
“I thought I’d be assigned to a proper Potential, but you are just a child.”
Seeing as how she’d probably never drop this, I decided to curb her attitude with my own. Carefully setting my book aside, I stood up and locked gazes with her.
“So are you, you’re barely older than me,” I replied coldly. “If you aren’t going to do your job, just keep out of my way and let me study in peace.”
Hylia’s mouth flopped open but I barely paid it any heed as I stalked out of the room. Feeling triumphant, I walked over to my father’s study and peered in. He wasn’t there so I helped myself to a few of the books and perused some of the beginning chapters. The magical theory of the most recent paragraph require cross-referencing, so I needed to lay my hands on additional material.
“Perfect,” I murmured, flicking through the pages. I looked up to see Hylia with the same wide-eye expression on her face.
“Y-You, what are you?!”
I sighed, placing a hand on my hip and shrugging slightly. “What are we all? Humans? Sapient creatures? Reincarnated species?”
“W-Why are you talking like—like some kind of…” Hylia threw up her hands when she couldn’t find the words to express herself. “What are you?”
“And so you ask the question twice. I guess children do have a limit to their mental capacity?”
“Y-You’re the kid here! You have the limited mental capacity!”
“Uhuh. Alright, if you’re so smart, why don’t you explain this” —I gestured all around me— “situation to me?”
Hylia spluttered as she tried to piece together a coherent argument in reply, but I think she was more overwhelmed by the fact a child my age was beating her so thoroughly.
“Y-You, j-just, fine!”
With that, Hylia stormed out, while I simply cocked my head at her ridiculous response. Who the heck was the child here? Calmly, I picked up the books and left father’s study.
When Talland and Eileen came back, Hylia tried to explain the situation to them.
“He’s possessed or something! You have to alert Lord Dias!”
Talland raised an eyebrow. “Uhuh, Apprentice Hylia, what evidence do you have of Rael’s possession?”
“He talks like an adult, he reads and understand complex books, he’s way too advanced for his age.”
“While I admit he’s pretty smart, he’s just looking at the books for fun, I doubt he’s actually reading them.” Talland scratched his cheek thoughtfully. “He’s going way too fast for even most adults. Besides, no one has taught him more than a few words.”
“That obviously proves my point, he shouldn’t be that smart already!”
Eileen rolled her eyes. “Yes, I think he can read, but that doesn’t prove anything other than he’s exceptional. Right, Master Rael?”
For the benefit of others I pretended to be confused. “Did I do something wrong?” I rounded my eyes and turned them to the floor. From the corner of my eyes I could see Hylia almost breaking into a fit and Eileen rushing over quickly to comfort me. Talland rounded on Hylia, while Eileen hugged me.
“No, no, of course not, you’ve done nothing wrong.”
“But Hylia says something about me being bad…”
The aura around Talland shifted from easy-going to dangerously dark in a fraction of a second. “Apprentice Hylia, what did you say to Master Rael?”
“H-He’s obviously lying!” With her emotional outburst, she quickly lost ground.
Talland’s eyebrows drew together as he gave her a ferocious scowl. “Apprentice Hylia, I advise you drop this nonsense now.”
Hylia dropped her shoulders and looked between Eileen and Talland. Seeing no support in their cold gazes, her look eventually wandered to me. I went from distressed to devious and back again in a blink of an eye. Hylia’s eyes widened slightly as her expression darkened for a brief moment. She bit lip, however and reluctantly nodded.
“I… apologise for my actions so far.”
The Apprentice shot me a dangerous glare before retreating to the hallway. Eileen patted me on the head. “It’s okay now, she’s gone.”
“Thank you,” I said ‘uneasily’.
Talland wiped a hand across his face. “I knew that girl was going to be trouble.”
Au contraire, Talland my friend, this just got a lot more interesting.
I think it’s time to begin a social experiment.
This thing isn't edited, so I apologise for my horrific errors. Be sure to point them out in the comments if you can! The more views and comments this gets, the more motivated I am to continue, so please, if you enjoy this, leave a comment!