Chapter 4: Quantum Energy
Apprentice Hylia was getting frustrated. Her ambition was to climb to the top of the Magus world and stand above all others with her vast knowledge, superior power and depthless wisdom. Being a Magus was one of the most assured ways a human could overcome their deficiencies against the hostile and dangerous mortal land. Nature was filled with danger. With sinister monsters, varied opponents of high physical calibre and superior bloodlines where nobles were concerned, the only way to claw up from the sea of commonality was to embrace magic. The power of nature was a high hurdle to scale, and only those who were gifted or exceptionally dedicated (and often both) could hope to achieve complacency.
And yet with all her hard work, all her ability, she was relegated to become a babysitter for the child of two nobles in a backwater fief! She came with high hopes, on recommendation from the High Magus Mariel herself. Hylia’s goal was to gain fame from rearing up a ardent Potential into an Apprentice, but that was an impossibility with someone barely out of their diapers! However, even in her darkest time, her luck won out, and the nobles were the heroes of Canter!
Awesome figures that dominated recent history by their very act of unifying the land with the exalted King himself! Lady Lilanthe was an Adept with fearsome casting abilities, her magic centred around the wind and healing spirits of water. Lord Dias was a first-class paladin with fearsome abilities to purify and counter evil! These two weren’t just nobles, these were living legends!
But now she was in charge of this little brat instead of pursuing her lifelong goals!
Hylia knew she was an accomplished person, proficient of feats that no one her age would ever be capable of. She was already able to tap her Centre and her ability rivalled that of her role model, High Magus Mariel, when she was her age.
It would have been fine if she could just wiggle her way out of this tutoring role. She had to complete one to advance in her studies, but this was her chosen Assignment. It would be near impossible to request a transfer. She thought that perhaps the Potential might underperform or there might be friction due to their age difference… but she never thought she would be assigned to not only someone who wasn’t an adult, but wasn’t even five years old! The age difference was in reverse! What a disgrace!
Still, she kept up appearances and eventually when she met the boy… he was reading.
Well, not reading, how could a four year old read such complicated manuals?
He must have been looking at the book in interest.
Yes, she thought to herself, he was simply looking at the book.
Then he spoke to her. Not like a four year old would, but like a chilling, full-blown Magus would. There was no power behind his words, there was no stir of energy that accompanied his speech and nothing about him seemed remotely like a Magus.
Except that frosty feeling that accompanied someone that had lived a long, long time.
“So are you, you’re barely older than me,” he spoke coldly. “If you aren’t going to do your job, just keep out of my way and let me study in peace.”
Hylia had taken an instinctive step back in fear. Before she knew it, she had berated him, but received a stunning riposte back!
But she knew that this… being wasn’t Lady Lilanthe’s and Lord Dias’ son. A possessed child… perhaps even a Shade in disguise!
But Talland and Eileen were under his sinister spell. They didn’t believe her for a second. Instead of praising her, they berated her for being too wilful. She was even forced to apologise!
Tightening her fingers into a white-knuckled death-grip, Hylia had stormed out the room whilst clenching her teeth in fury. After struggling with her rage for a full minute, she forced herself to calm down.
All was not lost! She would have to prove that ‘Rael’ was not who he said he was. Once she brought proof to them, he would be exposed, and she would be rewarded, perhaps even inaugurated as the youngest exorcist, as an Apprentice!
Hylia licked her lips. Yes, this wasn’t a setback, this was perfect.
‘Rael’ was the perfect stepping stone for her own ambitions.
Seeing Hylia leave, I shrugged my shoulders and went back to reading. After all, magic wouldn’t solve itself, and there was much to learn. One of the interesting aspects of magic is the ability to utilise it in a way that doesn’t require the direct intervention of the elements. There was an implicit understanding that the four elements were the only elements in the world and everything from the trees to the grass to the sky and wind and animals and humans are all unique combinations of these elements.
Of course no one has been able to replicate life, but apparently the use of automatons where energy is ‘imbued’ into objects was possible. How fascinating. Could there be a way to dynamically allocate function to inanimate objects by fusing a protocol to its substituents? In other words, the energy that binds the inanimate objects together could somehow work as a system and the ‘intent’ of the caster is the ‘program’ it ran on.
I had a few hypotheses I wanted to test out, but unfortunately, Talland and Eileen were here so I couldn’t practice magic openly. The only time I could do it was when everyone was asleep, or if they thought I was asleep. During that time they would leave the room and stand guard outside, giving me the opportunity to cautiously experiment. However, there was no chance. After the little spat with Hylia, Talland and Eileen had comforted me by making reassurances that I hadn’t done anything wrong and had stayed in the room instead.
Seeing their actions, I felt a little ridiculous for faking the tears and acting like a four year old, but I consoled myself with the fact that right at this moment I was four years old.
I sighed. I should act my mental age. I didn’t want to act too conspicuous, but there were also opportunities to probe at them to determine whether or not they were fanatics or just trapped within the system. For all intents and purposes the hints I were dropping about my understanding were glossed over. It seemed they genuinely believed I was a part of this world and that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. Apart from some minor inconsistencies, which they had doubts, but mostly dismissed.
I wasn’t particularly hiding the fact that I had greater intelligence for my age, but I wasn’t keen on showing them blatantly. After all, I had it pretty good here and from the way society was stratified, I was near enough to the top that I could be satisfied with what I had.
Anyway, putting that aside, the book I was reading was fascinating.
Advanced magical theory was very close to science in some ways. They talked about energy flows and allowable mechanics and rules that govern the way people could ‘use’ magic.
The basic principle was that every person had an unlimited resource of energy to tap into: the ‘Centre’. The ability for those to channel this were, broadly speaking, those who could use magic. Around us there was also something akin to energy that our Centre absorbed. Like a well filling up with water, this energy poured into our Centre and filled it up. The capacity for magic users was called the ‘Elemental Source’. As one became more proficient in the Art, the ability for the Centre to retain a greater amount of Elemental Source increased.
Speaking of which, magical users were split into four main categories.
People who had an affinity with the Centre were called Potentials. They could sense that it exists. Additionally, they can barely see the flow of power and could not manipulate it at all.
The next step above were Apprentices. Apprentices were those that could see the flow of power as it affects nature. Apprentices can feel the Centre, but not connect with it, however can use a formless type of energy from their surroundings. Typically, if the energy density around them is weak, they are as powerless as Potentials.
Initiates were Apprentices that had passed the test to show that they could connect with the Centre. They can produce at least one spell and had an affinity to at least one element.
Adepts showed promise to become a Magus. They could cast multiple spells and had a strong connection with the Centre. Their affinity to their element gets stronger to the point where it is ready to ‘evolve’. When it evolves, then they are considered a Magus.
The Magi were the highest point for magic users in this land. Magi could change the very nature of existence with their spells and warp things to their heart’s desire. The limitation of the Magus only came from their physical and mental limits and whichever deity they pledged themselves to. A beginner Magus could fell a demon. An accomplished Magus could decimate an army.
Of course the steps between each of these were astronomical. The rate of success between each step is often generalised as:
One in a thousand for a Potential to become an Apprentice.
One in three for an Initiate to become an Adept.
One in two for an Adept to become a Magus.
A Magus was basically asking for less than one in one million. That was a number that boggled the mind.
While a Magus was rare, the odds of finding someone who could do magic wasn’t bad. After all, roughly one half of the population could be considered a Potential. This meant that almost every second village had someone who could cast a simple spell, and every town probably had an Initiate or Adept, whilst each kingdom was almost certain to have a handful of Magi. There was also a component of this being genetic predisposition, thus creating the noble archetype for Magi.
The fact that I was a Potential wasn’t too surprising; my parents were adept at magic. I didn’t know what ranking my parents were, but my mother was at the very least an Apprentice and my father was probably an Initiate.
In any case, since I was able to cast simple spells, I might be an Initiate. I could cast more than one spell, so I could probably be ranked as an Apprentice. However, I did have my doubts. It couldn’t be this simple to go from Potential to Apprentice, and there seemed to be tests involved. Mariel did say that I had potential. Was she talking about my current ability or what I could be?
I heard the door click in the middle of my musings.
“Master Rael,” Talland called out from the door. “Apprentice Hylia is back to teach you.” He paused briefly with some unknown emotion flickering through his eyes. “Do you want to see her?”
I nodded ‘hesitantly’ and then slid off the chair, presenting myself respectfully, even though I was annoyed I would spend less time reading. Hylia was an interesting case, being an Apprentice at such a young age, but she seemed to have a personality that made it difficult for me to get along with her. There was a reason why I preferred to study science alone.
Talland gave me an encouraging nod as he opened the door and admitted Hylia.
Hylia had this scary dead-set expression that made me take a step back, but it was quickly squashed under carefully modelled neutrality so fast that I almost thought it was my imagination.
Almost. She was still giving me a strange look.
Talland posted himself in the corner of the room, but Hylia didn’t seem to mind. Instead, she handled a heavy-looking leather satchel at her waist. Opening the flap, she withdrew a weighty vellum envelope with creases running down the side.
I stared at her as she arranged herself on a cushion and sat somewhat gracefully down next to me.
“Now, Master Rael, I will be your Teacher for the next week or so.” She paused here with expectant eyes.
Belatedly, I placed the book down next to me and suppressed a sigh.
“Yes, Teacher Hylia,” I replied solemnly.
Hylia nodded stiffly, before moving on. “Okay, let’s start at the beginning. What do you know about magic?”
I could feel her suspicion openly being transmitted, but feigning ignorance here could be even more dangerous. Though I had taunted her before, I felt that the action was a little too rash. I’ll admit, she got on my nerves. Her personality didn’t mesh well with mine, and I hadn’t exercised caution that I would usually, when thrown into the unknown.
Even though Talland was here, there was no telling what an Apprentice could do to me. The difference between the abilities of an Potential to an Apprentice was like trying to swim upstream a torrential river. It wasn’t impossible, but it may as well be. I decided to obediently convey the basics of magic to her. I would be good until I knew the full extent of her powers.
“Magic is the ability to tap into the Centre. The Centre is somehow connected to the energy all around us. Deities, and belief in one, is the foundation of advanced magic. One example is—”
“Hold it.” Hylia pinched the bridge of her nose. “You do realise that you’re basically quoting the book word for word?”
“Yes, so?” I glanced at the book with a frown.
Hylia pressed her lips together. “Do you even understand what you’re saying?”
“Of course I do,” I replied impatiently. There was my temper again. I didn’t like it when people doubted my abilities. I’ve had enough of that before. “I’ve been reading about this for a long time.”
Talland, who couldn’t hear our conversation at this distance, was beginning to become suspicious with the tone and approached.
“Everything, alright, Master Rael?”
“Yes!” I affected a sweet smile. “Thank you, Talland!”
Talland, for some reason, glanced away and coughed slightly. “Too—” he mumbled something under his breath.
“What?” Did I do something wrong?
“Nothing.” Talland glanced between us for a moment, before retreating slowly. “I’m only a shout away, Master Rael.”
Talland drifted back into the corner as Hylia eyed me critically.
“So,” she said abruptly, “let’s drop pretences. What are you?”
Hylia glared at me. “That’s not what I mean. What. Are. You?”
I rolled my eyes at her. “What do you think I am?”
“Possessed.” Hylia ground her teeth. “And I’m going to expose you and then exorcise you!” She glanced back with a reassuring smile to a dubious Talland.
I folded my arms. “And how exactly are you going to do that?”
Hylia pressed her lips together and fumed. “I-I’m going to force you duel me.”
“Right,” I drawled, “and do you think my parents are just going to accept that?”
“They will when they find out you’re possessed!”
“Uhuh. So let me get this straight. Your plan is to duel me to convince my parents that I’m possessed because that’s the reason to duel me.”
“I, erm, yes!”
I gaped at her audacity. “You’re an idiot.”
“Are you even an Apprentice?”
“I can stammer however I want!”
“Are you sure you’re an Apprentice? Aren’t Apprentices capable of tapping their Centre?”
“I can tap my Centre, I can cast multiple spells!”
My mouth twitched. “You’re not really an Apprentice, are you?”
Hylia bit her lip guiltily. “Yes I am.”
“Oh. You actually… I can’t believe you really lied about being an Apprentice.”
“I am an Apprentice! I’m better than an Apprentice! I just… I just haven’t passed the test yet!”
“Are you really the tutor that Mariel sent?”
Hylia found something interesting to look at on the ground.
“By the Stars of the Universe,” I muttered, “you really are an idiot.”
“You don’t understand! My master went away and she left me this scroll and then she told me that I needed to help some Potential in a backwater town! She told me this was my test! I am way above the level of an Apprentice, I can—Wait, why am I explaining everything to yo—” She caught herself before she went any further, going beet red as I placed a hand in front of my face and sighed. “A-Anyway! You’re not who you say you are!”
“You do realise that lying about being an Apprentice is grounds for execution, right?”
Hylia suddenly paled. “W-What?”
“I can’t believe you don’t know this. Don’t you know anything about the Kingdom’s Law?”
“I’ve… never been out of the Spire before now…”
“How did you survive? What about money?”
“Money?” Hylia’s eyebrows drew together. “I just told them I was an Apprentice and then showed them my master’s certificate and they just gave me whatever I needed.”
I stared at Hylia for a full ten seconds straight.
“… Let me see that certificate.”
Hylia clutched the vellum envelope to her chest as she glared at me. “No, why should I?”
“Do you want to be executed or not?”
Hylia hesitated slightly and then passed over the vellum envelope she was gripping like it was her lifeline. After tugging it out of her hands, I took it and opened it carefully as she watched with a complicated expression. The parchment inside didn’t look it saw much use. There wasn’t a seal, but something sparkled as I touched it before dissipating.
Did Mariel do something?
Feeling nothing adverse, I decided to continue.
To Whoever It May Concern,
This is to certify that Hylia Mandern is who she claims she is. I endorse this in my name as High Magus of the Kingdom of Dill, Mariel.
Signed in my own hand,
This was clearly an identity document! Also, Mariel, you didn’t put an explanation at all! She could claim to be the Princess and people would believe her! I slapped a disbelieving hand to my forehead. What are you doing, Mariel?
I waved the letter at Hylia with pursed lips. “You’re very lucky they believed you, but this is so like Mariel to just do things like this on the fly. You know this document gives you free pass to be anything you claim to be as long as Mariel backs her name up with it?”
“What? That’s what it does?” Hylia snatched it back and started reading it. “No wonder they just let me go anywhere, I thought they were impressed with my noble aura…”
By the Stars, did this girl actually neglect to read her own introduction letter?
“Listen, erm, Hylia, you don’t seem like a bad kid—” even if you are an idiot “—if you fess up now, you might be able to…”
Hylia glanced at me, her expression shooting backwards and forwards between ‘tortured’ and ‘possessed’. Which was ironic, considering she thought a second ago I was the latter.
“You know magic, right?” she suddenly asked.
I blinked at her. “Uhm… what?”
“Then you can teach me, right?”
“Aren’t you my teacher?”
“I’m just a Potential… I mean I’m close to an Initiate, but… can’t you just teach me to cast another spell? You seem to know a lot of the basics. Then I can be an Apprentice for real and they won’t have to kill me!”
“Woah, woah, woah.” I gave her a stern look. “Putting aside the fact that you were about to duel me for the reason to duel me, couldn’t I just tell them you’re not an Apprentice? Then it would force them to test you, then they’d execute you and then all my problems would be gone. Why should I go ahead and teach you magic?”
I kept silent on the fact that she didn’t even know if I knew how to cast magic. She probably still thought I was possessed and she literally asking the possessor to teach her magic. Was she crazy? Well, now that I know her rough capabilities…
Hylia could see the fact sinking in. I grinned inwardly. Perfect.
“Okay, how about we make a deal?”
Hylia was instantly on guard. “What deal?”
“Oh it’s simple. I teach you to cast another spell and then you have to do me an undisclosed favour in the future.”
Initially, she hesitated, but when I shifted and looked a little disinterested, Hylia felt her chance escaping her and quickly nodded.
I smiled naïvely, holding out my hand in a proffered gesture of goodwill. Hylia barely concealed a wily expression as she reached out in turn. “Don’t be breaking this promise. Let’s shake on it.”
The Apprentice was oblivious to the softly glowing hand I extended when she eagerly grasped it.
“Okay,” she said, “you won’t tell them no—ow!” She yanked back her hand, shaking it in the air as she scowled at me. “What did you do?!”
“Everything alright here?!” Talland leaped over with two bounding strides as he thrust a hand between Hylia and myself. He almost looked ready to tackle Hylia to the ground.
“All good!” I smiled at him as Hylia quickly smoothed her expression.
She was sweating bullets, however, underneath all that. “Yes, yes, I was just showing Rael a simple spell and got a little excited. Nothing to concern yourself with.” She gathered a bit of her impetuous attitude around herself again.
Talland cocked his head suspiciously, glaring at Hylia. Despite that, he seemed to accept her explanation. “Alright, then…” He retreated slowly to once more stand in the corner of the room.
“It’s a simple little spell to discourage you from breaking the promise.”
Hylia gritted her teeth, speaking through them as she angrily shot back. “What spell?”
“Oh it’s a little spell I found in my father’s study room. It’s just insurance.” I smiled wickedly at Hylia. “Congratulations, you’re my first guinea pi—I mean student.”
Hylia didn’t look as happy as I did.
Talland left us alone, probably reaching some sort of misunderstanding with the handshake he saw earlier. He excused himself, probably to go flirt with Eileen. I didn’t mind it. Although, he didn’t tell me exactly when he was coming back, so I didn’t practice any magic in the meantime.
“You cast a spell on me!” Hylia hissed at me, whilst clutching her hand. “You’re at Initiate level, too!”
I shrugged and all but ignored her, reading my book.
“Hey, you said you would teach me!”
“I did, but did I ever specify a time?”
“What? How could you…? Ugh!” Hylia stomped away and drew out her own books and started reading feverishly as well. Good. The path to being a Magus is a scholarly one. Knowledge is power.
Evidently, Hylia could only take so much before she set aside the book in disgust and approached me again.
“Hey,” she called out to me.
I finished off the paragraph, then flipped over the page… and kept reading.
I put down the book, seeing her avid gaze lighting up as I… closed my eyes and took a brief nap.
Not bothering to open my eyes, I answered her wearily. “What?”
I raised my head briefly, before letting it sink back down.
Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain in my side. Hylia pouted at me, which I suppose would be considered cute if she didn’t keep interrupting my sleep. I had a tight schedule, you know.
Finally, unable to get shut-eye, I opened my eyes and stared at her. “Fine, I will teach you.”
Hylia instantly retracted her raised fist… what was she planning to do with that if I didn’t teach her? She sat down cross-legged on the floor, looking up at me expectantly.
When I didn’t say anything for a full minute, Hylia lost her patience once again and snapped at me. “Why aren’t you saying anything? Aren’t you teaching me?”
Instead of answering her question, I asked her one in turn. “I’m going to teach you by having you teach me. What would you teach me first?”
“What?” Hylia looked taken aback. “That’s not what we agreed on!”
I shrugged. “You didn’t specify a teaching method, nor a time, nor a place… do you know anything about contracts?”
“Contracts? The agreements merchants use?”
I rolled my eyes. “Never mind. If you’re going to learn from me, you have to follow my teaching methods. You will have to learn my learning methods and how to apply them. I will not simply teach you the spells directly.”
Hylia seemed to have some regrets in jumping into the agreement so easily. She snorted derisively. “What can you teach me besides spells, anyway? Aren’t you barely four years old?”
I sighed and pressed a finger to my temple as I patiently answered her. “If we’re talking about age and proficiency, shouldn’t you be better than me? Why is it that I can cast a spell and you cannot?”
Hylia reddened. “I can cast a spell!”
“Oh?” I leaned forward. “Show me, then.”
Hylia reddened further, looking more like a tomato than a human. “I-I can, just w-watch!”
Hylia held out her hand and concentrated fiercely. Even though she was determined, I could see a bit of hesitancy in her movements. She was clearly nervous about the outcome.
Oblivious to my scrutiny, Hylia chanted a long and complex aria.
“As I breath life, life is breathed in me, the heat, the light, the warmth of fire becomes my aid in the darkness. I seek the inferno of burning desire, the forged weapon primeval, I beseech the Lord of Flames, Keas, to bring endless ardour. Alima ser redeel!”
At first, there was nothing. I glanced up at Hylia, but she doubled down and glared at her hand. For little more than a second, a puff of flame was ignited. I was surprised, but Hylia was shocked.
She immediately recovered with a smug expression, though.
“Ha! See?!” she exclaimed, glancing up at me. However, I had already suppressed my own astonishment. There was hope for her after all, but her level of proficiency was somewhat disappointing.
I shrugged, which had Hylia swallow back her pride as she leaned back, aghast.
“How can you be so calm about this? I cast a spell!”
I raised an eyebrow at her. “You seem to think it’s a big deal.”
“It is, I bet you—”
Her mouth dropped open as I cast a simple spell. A flame leapt in my hand, glowing softly as it danced lazily on my palm, almost as if mocking her earlier attempt with its casual existence. I waved my hand above it, then closed my fist, extinguishing the flame.
“B-But, there’s no chant, no aria, no deity invoked…”
I sighed. “And why is that?”
Hylia sank back. “It must be a trick. You must be using a talisman or something…”
I cocked my head at her. “Does everyone need to use an ‘aria’ before casting a spell?”
“Of course!” Hylia got up from her seated position and stomped her foot as she glared down at me. “That’s the very basics of magic!”
“Well, you’ve seen something in contradiction. So now, how does this play into your belief system?”
“But… it must be some kind of error…”
I shook my head. “Why are you disbelieving what is happening right in front of you? You’ve seen the evidence and I’ve brought forward proof.”
“But that’s impossible, you can’t cast spells without the aria…”
“Yes you can, didn’t I show you?”
I sighed. “Let’s put this in context then. Have you seen Mariel chant before casting her spells?”
“Did she use any variations to her chanting?”
Hylia eyes lost focus as she struggled to recall. “I think… so.”
“Then there’s your answer. The aria and chant aren’t the only way of casting magic, after all, there are such things as magical beasts, right? How can they cast magic without chants?”
“Because they’re simply acting on instinct. They cast without thinking of the duration, power or the deity they are invoking. They aren’t working in harmony with their element as well. That’s why they can’t achieve the same power we do.”
I nodded at Hylia’s response. “Good answer, and a textbook one at that. So, if a chant in necessary to shape and form an element when casting a spell, why is it that I can do it without chanting at all?”
Hylia stared back at me, dumbfounded.
I patted her shoulder. “Give yourself time to think about it and then maybe you will arrive at your answer. You are old right now, so the foundations of your beliefs are stopping you from going further. You have to comprehend magic and the intricacies of nature to fully grasp how to use it.”
Hylia gave me a strange look. “How do you know so much?”
I countered, quite childishly. “How can you stand knowing so little? The world has no limit to learning, you know. Just as you think you’re advanced for your age, you aren’t the most advanced in the world.”
Hylia abruptly stood up, and left the room.
“I… I need to think about this. Excuse me.”
Turning over the foundation of one’s beliefs isn’t the easiest task.
The next day, my parents had to leave quite suddenly. I didn’t know the reason but the rumours from the gossiping maids in my room hinted that there was unrest in the kingdom, forcing the King to summon them. The capital wasn’t far from here, but it was at least a few days ride from their home.
Talland and Eileen had stayed behind and were ordered to keep the peace within the fief. Talland, suddenly loaded with the work that plagued Dias, settled down to do the paperwork, whilst Eileen, ironically, was left more free as her only other duty was to bring meals to the pair.
As she was my personal maid, she took the time to ‘teach’ me some more letters and made it her own solemn duty to keep an eye on Hylia who visited me outside the time allocated for our tutoring session. She was turned away politely the first time and then progressively more coldly as Hylia aggressively tried to make contact with me.
Why was she so desperate to see me?
In the end, she was reluctantly let in after my session with Eileen. Eileen, however, didn’t let me go off and read like normal.
“Master Rael, I have a quick question for you.”
I tilted my head. “Yes, Teacher Eileen?”
“Erm…” Eileen fidgeted with the hem of her lace dress as she bit her lip timidly. “Master Rael… what is the situation between you and Apprentice Hylia?”
I blinked at Eileen as I tried to piece it together. Surprised, I accidentally let slip my childish persona and answered honestly. “We’re teacher and student.”
Eileen’s eyes held some indeterminable emotion for a brief moment. She sighed, setting her jaw as she added firmly, “Master Rael, is Hylia bullying you?”
Judging by the way Eileen dropped Hylia’s appellation, she was convinced that something serious was going on between us.
“No, Teacher Eileen.”
Eileen softened her expression, her strict façade fading as she smiled at me. “You can tell me, Rael, we’re not teacher and student anymore, I’m your maid and friend. You can tell me.”
Well, a half-truth is better than honesty, sometimes.
“Apprentice Hylia was pretty mean…”
“I knew it!” Eileen clenched her fists. “I’m going to—”
“Wait!” I shouted. Eileen froze halfway to getting up. I was afraid she storm out and find out about our little arrangement, I can’t let her know I know too much. “She’s… she’s fine!”
Eileen crouched down and stared into my eyes, making me feel a little conscious of myself. “She’s not threatening you right now, is she?”
“No!” I said quickly. “She’s nice now!”
Eileen sighed. “Maybe you’re right. But Rael, you come to me if she ever does anything to you, okay?”
I smiled thinly at Eileen. “Yes, I will.”
She ruffled my hair. She sure likes doing that. “Good boy.”
Eventually Hylia was allowed access to my room. Seeing that Eileen was posted in the corner of the room, Hylia evidently swallowed back something she was dying to say and assumed the persona of being a teacher.
“So, Rael, the principles of sensing the Centre is as follows…”
We made it through about half the book before Eileen went to fetch us some water, as Hylia was ‘parched’. Looking torn between her duties of hospitality and protecting me from Hylia, Eileen eventually left, muttering something about how she never would have thought she would miss having Talland around to help her.
Hylia seized on the chance the moment the door was closed.
“Hey, look what I can do!” Without pause she chanted. “I seek the inferno of burning desire, the forged weapon primeval, I beseech the Lord of Flames, Keas, to bring endless ardour. Alima ser redeel!”
Above her palm was a very small and unsteady flame. It lasted for about thirty seconds before dying out.
“I shortened the chant and wished with all my might and then it finally appeared!” Hylia grinned at me, but it soon died as she saw my expression. “What? What’s wrong?”
“You don’t understand the basics of what I was teaching you. Magic is not about copying what I’ve done or shortening the chant or believing that it should come true. It’s a realisation of the current state of matters. The Truth, essentially.”
I nodded. “Look at how the world works and figure out how you made the fire come about. Talk to me when you figure it out.” I tapped my chin as I thought of the way to frame it. “Okay, how about we go on an excursion?”
“An excursion. We’re going to go outside and learn about things first-hand.”
“How do we go outside? Your guards watch me like a hawk!”
I grinned at her. “That’s simple, we sneak out.”
In the dark, many things can be accomplished. The reason why I am most proficient in fire-type ‘spells’ is not because I have an affinity for the element, it’s because I understand energy and things like moving rocks or shifting water seems to defy logic, so it’s immensely difficult for me to comprehend it. I can barely make it work because I know about artificial gravity systems, but applying that to this reality proved to be difficult.
Anyway, I liked fire because I wanted to read at night.
That’s right, my scholarly pursuit is what gave me my knowledge in the first place. I didn’t formally learn most of my field. I studied it through research, and that’s how it should be. You acquire skills and knowledge as tools to aid you in your goals. That’s why fire comes pretty easily for now.
I ‘summoned’ a light source above my hand, the cool glow casting variegated shadows that danced in tune with my swivelling hand. If it were up to me, I’d make a pressurised suit similar to the one on my ship, but for now, heading into the wilderness, I was equipped with my wits and Hylia.
Although I had to fetch Hylia first.
Climbing out of my window was an easy feat. The latch worked from the inside, but moving outside was a little more difficult. Just to let you know, being able to pilot a ship on your own requires rigorous training. I think I spent half my research grant on the accreditation required to allow me to fly solo and the other half on the equipment on my ship.
I’m able to deal with alien worlds full of hostile environments where the air isn’t even breathable and the gravity is crushing. Climbing a wall was a piece of cake.
If only I had more than the strength of a child.
Despite a gruelling physical regime set between the times that I read during the time I ‘slept’ or ‘napped’, I was barely strong enough to clamber from one side of the wall to the other. Luckily, Hylia was situated in a guest room on the same floor I was on.
Straddling the window sill, I took a deep breath. I’ve done this a million times, and even though the jitters have mostly gone, the relative scale of myself and a ten metre drop still chills me. The night was calm, which I was thankful for. Last time there was wind, but how else was I supposed to get books from Dias’ study when the door was locked? He only left it unlocked when he was here.
I hooked my fingers into tiny crevices that only my child-like fingers could fit into. I marvelled at how delicate my fingers looked, yet how tough the human body was to withstand the force of my whole weight suspended by the muscles in my hands. Latching on the wall, I shimmied across, feeling a little like a spider.
Finally, I arrived at Hylia’s window. The sill for the windows were large enough on this side that I could stand gingerly on the edge. I settled on it and then turned to the window.
Peering in her window, I was curious to see what she’d brought with her on her journey from ‘the Spire’. I wondered what the Spire really was. People talk about it like it was something between an institution, a holy place and a powerful object. Whatever the Spire was, anyone not from this area was interesting.
Her room was sparse.
There was a simple writing desk, which I think would be considered a luxury, a bulky backpack with a somewhat smooth staff hooked into the side, a simple bed with white linen with a figure sleeping soundly.
I tapped on the window.
The figure stirred, but then resumed sleeping after a while.
Annoyed, I tapped a little harder.
Hylia groaned slightly and then sat up. My eyes widened when I realised she wasn’t wearing a single thing! Was it considered a crime if I didn’t know? I quickly looked away and tapped once more. This time more insistently.
There was a pause then a muffled scramble as I rolled my eyes.
The window opened quickly as Hylia poked her head out huffing.
“… Did you see?”
“… See what?”
Hylia pursed her lips, but didn’t seem to press the issue. She folded her arms in her hastily thrown-on robes and glared at me.
“What are you doing here?” she finally demanded, nostrils flaring.
I chose to ignore her ire. She shouldn’t sleep in the nude if she knew someone was going to visit. “I told you, we were going to sneak out.”
“How,” she sniped, “are we going to fly?”
I blinked at her. “How did you know?”
Hylia’s mouth dropped open.
Oh, she didn’t know.
Another chapter, finally! Sorry for getting this out late, I've got a lot to do between work and this is actually not my only story between sites. I might setup a Patreon to guide me on what is most 'worth' doing, but that might be later. Be sure to comment, more comments means it is more likely to update. Even if you're just asking for more! If you find mistakes, let me know!