_______________________________

“Stop,” I cried. Zeyl’s body was lifeless and the fire surrounding us was eating at her. Lee was at the center of it all. I could smell the smoke thickening with its poison. I coughed and coughed to the point my lungs hurt. My knees gave in and I was losing my vision.

“It’s all your fault,” he said. “It’s your fault. It’s your fault.”

“Please,” I begged. “Stop.” 

In an instant I was drenched with water. “Aril!” Lilia shook me. I rubbed my eyes and my vision returned to normal. I could smell the fresh air and flowers from the garden.

“It was an illusion,” said Lilia. “Tell me everything that happened since this morning. It’s a good way to take you completely out of the illusion.”

“I woke,” I said. “I had breakfast, I brushed my teeth. I studied some notes you gave me without much progress. I-I asked you to place me under and illusion spell to see what it was like.”

“Good,” she said. “Now just relax.”

I couldn’t relax. “That felt too real.”

“What did you see?” Lilia helped me sit upright and handed me a glass of water.

“I was back in Aria,” I said. “I was on break from my job and wanted to see Lee. Things got really bad after that…”

Lilia breathed a sigh of relief. “You shouldn’t give it too much thought.”

“Right,” I said.

“Are you ready to go again?” said Lilia.

I subconsciously shook my head. “No.”

“It’s unfortunate,” she placed her hand on my face.

“W-wait,” I stumbled back and crawled away from Lilia. “I’m not ready!”

“Once you start, you have to finish the lesson.”

 

It was like I slipped into a dream. When I woke I looked around and felt I was carried in a woman’s arms. Mom? I couldn’t see her face. She took me around through a crowd of people and my senses were picking up many strange things. I could hear loud horns and strange music. Iron carriages moved by themselves, people spoke a strange language and in time a great structure came into view. It was a steel laced tower that seemed like it could go on forever.

“Aril,” Lilia’s voice came from everywhere. She appeared as a giant the size of a mountain and her hand was like a great meteor falling right to me. It was enough to wake me from my dream to find Lilia sitting on the grass with her knees bent.

“You’re really susceptible to illusions,” she said.

“Yeah? That’s nice to know…” I said. “It’s not fair when you use such an advanced spell.”

“That was just a basic illusion spell,” she said.

“Are you good at illusions spells?”

“I don’t specialize in it, but I suppose it depends,” she said. “Can you tell if I’m really here, or not?” She laughed. I moved my hand to Lilia, tempted to touch her and confirm whether she was really there.

“We’ll have to be realistic from here,” she rose up. “You won’t pass any of the written exams. That leaves us with two assessments on your magical ability. Come on, let’s get started.”

 

* * *

Lee

 

Nothing was working. It wasn’t only fire, but the other elements as well. They were basic. Glinn termed it ‘empathetic manipulation.’ One had to feel certain emotions to use certain magics. It was an intrusion to my understanding of it.

“Happiness,” said Glinn, “is what you need to take control of your fire.”

“Then what do you create when you feel angry, sadness?”

“Anger conjures strength and constitution,” she said. “You become stronger and hardened to the world around you.”

“And sadness?”

“You should not ever use magic when you are at your most miserable,” she said. “Your magic would turn to a poisonous miasma, hurting not only yourself, but those around you.”

I tried remembering the happiest memory I had. It didn’t help that I had to dig deep to find something that happened years ago, probably a decade. An ember was produced from my hand. This marked the first time I didn’t have to be aware of the amount of heat, fuel, and oxygen I needed to keep the fire alive. The ember shrunk and shrunk until it was completely gone. I was still in the midst of trying to create something with my magic. What was once a nice ember, turned to noxious fumes. Glinn grabbed my hand got rid of the poison.

“What memory were you using?” she demanded.

I created the natural gas, added the heat and took the oxygen from the air to create a new fire from my hand. It was bigger and more robust than the tiny ember I had created that could have been extinguished by a breeze.

“It’s nothing,” I said. “What magic do you create with fear?”

Glinn gave me a stare. “Illusions. Your own magic will work against you to soothe you and create false images from your memory. It tricks your mind into forgetting your fear altogether. That is how it was first discovered.”

“Then what happens when you’ve never felt those emotions. Never happy, never sad, and never felt what it was like to feel fear?”

“That’s enough for today,” Glinn was quick to head back into the castle. Her platoon of servants surrounded me again. They were sweating as if it they had recently come out from sauna. Worse yet, they were dropping like flies one after the other.

I gathered oxygen from the air and mixed it hydrogen to get the water I wanted. Then slowed the water molecules enough to turn it into ice.

“It’s not particularly hot today,” I split the ice among them.

“Lee!” I saw Lehvie running across the lawn. She rushed to me without any sign she was going to stop.

“Oof!” She tackled me to the ground.

The servant’s faces went from feeling agony to relief. They bowed to the princess and voiced their word of thanks, opposite to my confusion.

Lehvie stood and pulled my hand, effectively dragging me through the grass. “Let’s go!”

 

* * *

 

“Is it okay like this? Won’t they recognize you?” I asked. Lehvie had me join her in the carriage with Beck.

“We got the okay directly from her Majesty,” said Beck with confidence and an ‘okay’ hand sign. I didn’t care to question him about the details further, because through the window I saw people, actual human beings that were going about their daily lives. The clothes, the many pieces of jewelry and the air about them gave of this feeling of high class society but they were the closest I have come to normalcy in a long time.

“Here,” Lehvie handed me a stamp. I used it on my palm and left a mark of a fox. “It’s better than using gold.” I looked to Beck for more info.

“It’s a substitute for your signature, though they aren’t given to children,” he explained. “If you decide to buy something, simply stamp the receipt they hand you, and the item will be sent directly to your home.”

“Why not pay in physical currency?”

“You could,” he said. “But carrying hundreds of gold with you isn’t advisable. Simply from the sheer weight you’d burden yourself with transporting around.”

“Most items aren’t purchased with gold,” I said. “Just carrying more than one sounds outrageous. It’s excessive unless you’re planning to buy something of value.”

“Don’t think about it too much,” Lehvie squeezed my cheek. “Just buy and stamp. It’s easier than carrying money, right?”

“Yes, as my elder sister wishes. My elder sister is always right. Yes,” I joked. Lehvie puffed her cheeks.

Beck opened the carriage door and helped me out. “The routes were planned carefully, so please enjoy yourself, your Highness.”

“Aren’t you two coming?”

“We’re strangers from here out,” he said. “But we’ll be close behind you. Don’t worry.”

My first destination was a book store, and though it wasn’t a match for the library, the best thing about a book store was that I could hope to find books from other countries. If I looked for a history book in the city’s library, it was bound to be biased, for example. The chances that I find conflicting accounts of a part of history was concerning.

On my way there I couldn’t help but feel I was melding into the crowd. The percentage of red heads was alarmingly high. Students were walking down the streets, young children were running around without worry and everyone else minded themselves.

I entered the bookstore. “Welcome,” I heard from the shopkeeper. “Might I be of help in finding what you’re looking for?”

“Do you have any interesting spell books?”

“Ah,” he said, “for the aspiring sorcerer, I’d recommend Telavania’s ‘Theory of Pyromancy.’”

“Fire magic?”

“Divination by fire,” he corrected me. “It’s mostly theory, but some say that it predicts the future a set percent of the times.”

“I’ll just browse, but thanks,” I continued my way inside. A restricted section at the very back was hard to ignore, it was calling for me to enter. The section wasn’t locked away, more so that there was a piece of cloth to keep people from seeing what was inside. The sign above it certainly read, ‘Do not enter. Restricted.’ My curiosity wasn’t going to be stopped so easy. I timed it right and entered when the shopkeeper’s attention was set on another patron.

I browsed through and felt something strange about them. For books that were in a restricted section, some of them were about boosting stamina. Others for sensitivity, and a handful were based around imitating skin. I opened one book and gave it a short read through. I didn’t need to go past the first page to come to an understanding as to what made the section restricted.

“Sex,” I stood there in shock. I got out with speed and determination. My cheeks were flushed and right then my eyes met the shopkeeper’s.

He had a wide grin on his face. “I’m afraid those aren’t the interesting spells you’re looking for, young master.”

I sighed. “Could you get me your top five selling books?” If they went by popularity, books from the restricted section might be included. “Nothing ‘adult’ related.”

“That’s an odd order,” he had an assistant collect the books.

“Popular among students,” I added. “And a history of Talica from year one.” He changed up the books and had them sit on the counter. “A second one published in a different country, if you have one. And a general history book from of the Elven country.”

“Stamp?” he said. I showed it to him and he brought out the receipt. “You aren’t going to ask for the price, sir?”

“I spare no expense for books.”

“Yes, sir.”

“It’s my first time using a stamp. Is there an order to this?”

“Naturally,” said the shopkeeper. “We don’t send the books immediately, instead we have someone confirm the stamp, and the price. Once done, the books you reserved will have been officially purchased and sent to your estate, usually by the end of the day.”

“Has anyone ever failed the confirmation?”

“A few times a year, yes,” he said. “When that happens, we simply keep the books reserved for the buyer for no longer than a week, and most of the times they would return within that time to complete the purchase.”

“Thanks,” I stamped the receipt and headed out. One crowd outside caught my attention. They were waiting in turns to greet a certain princess. Lehvie waved at me.

 

The Adventurer’s Guild, the library, and something equivalent to a post office were places out of reach. I blended in with an incoming group of students, all boys, and followed them down the block while I looked for my next stop. All the shops here where indoor and the people were, for the most part, window shopping.

“Crags is selling them for ten gold pieces,” I overheard the boys. One of them wore a bracelet that looked like that of a snake biting a circle around to its tail. The boy tapped the head of the snake and the bracelet slithered around his arm.

“For ten gold, that thing better be the real thing,” they joked.

“Let me show you,” he had everyone back a few feet away. One of the boys noticed me and took the extra measure of pulling me back. The boy in the bracelet took a stance, “watch.” It took less than a second, but the one with the bracelet was surrounded in a whirlpool of water. The only downside was the water escaping as it spun, drenching anyone who happened to pass by, myself included.

“Oops,” he apologized. “It wasn’t supposed to come out as water.”

“It’s okay,” I said. All my movements stopped. Whatever water I was covered in froze in seconds.

“There it is!” he said with satisfaction.

“The water is too thin to lock my movements,” my curiosity was piqued. “How is it doing that?”

“It’s not the ice,” he smirked and proceeded to wipe the ice off of me. Every part that was removed let me regain movement. “It’s a second spell. Cool, huh?” He showed me the bracelet up close and right then it cracked. He watched in horror as it broke into little pieces. And I watched in horror at how much gold went down the drain.

“It’s alright,” he said, on the verge of tears, “it was worth it.”

“The guards are coming! Quick!” the other boys ran off after we spotted a couple of guards headed our way. A few civilians were still frozen in place and a few others were fuming red.

The boys pulled me with them and for some reason I started running. “I actually didn’t do anything!”

I escaped into an alley. And just when I thought I got away, a guard popped from behind me. I couldn’t tell past their helmet, but I felt like they were staring. The guard bowed with familiarity and left.

 

My next destination—Crag’s. I asked around and found that the shop was a few blocks away. The shop itself was two floors high and most of the traffic going and out were kids accompanied by their parents. One step in and I was saluted by a statue.

“Welcome.” A girl in uniform of greens and blacks opened the door. A foreigner with brown hair, green eyes. She could resemble Zeyl if she was older and a little more militant. And the shop. Not one inch of space was spared by items for display on the walls.

“I heard there was a certain item I could find here,” I pointed to my wrist. “A bracelet.”

“Serp’s Bracelet?” she said. “We have a lot in stock. Please go to the counter and someone will have what you need.”

The same bracelet was incased in a glass box and showcased in the middle of the shop. Thought the differences were more apparent the more I looked at it. It was more detailed, more lifelike, as if could spring to at me at any moment.

I moved to the counter.

“Find what you’re looking for, young master?” Crags was written on the man’s name tag.

“Is that your name?”

“No,” he said. “But I suppose it should be. It’s been a blessing.”

“I have something I want to purchase.” I pointed to the bracelet encased in glass.

“I’m afraid that’s a very exotic item. Very expensive. We cannot sell that to kids.”

“What is this place,” said Lehvie. She entered the shop with Beck behind her. She stole Crag’s attention and he was quick to come to her service. Just the person I needed.

 

* * *

Aril

 

“Help me with these,” said Lilia.

We were overlooking a box of books that was delivered to the house. She grabbed a few of them in her arms and had me carry the rest to Lee’s office.

Intermediate Transfigurations,” I read. “Is this a spell book?”

“Yes,” Lilia stacked them on Lee’s desk. I looked over the others and began reading them.

Legends of Talica,” I read. “History of Madrick.

“These are popular among students,” said Lilia. She picked up the one on Madrick. “I read this one when I was a student.”

“Ma’am,” a guard marched in, he wore Lehvie’s emblem. “Princess Lehvie has sent in a bill of sale.”

“She’s billing us? For what?” asked Lilia.

“Princess Lehvie will be making a purchase on the Prince’s behalf,” he explained. “Since the money will be coming from her funds, her Highness requires that Prince Liel’s treasury foot the bill.”

Lilia took the bill and didn’t move an inch after seeing its contents. I got behind her and tried to take a peek but before I could she turned it over, folded it and put it away in her dress pocket.

“How much was it?”

She took it out, to my surprise. “I can show you, but if you see it, you’ll get corrupted by the power of money.” She unfolded the bill and shoved it on my face. I closed my eyes as fast I could.

 

* * *

Liel

 

“Two thousand,” I buried my face in my hands. We were on our way home on in the carriage and the buyer’s remorse was chewing away at me. “Why did you buy it?”

“In Gold,” said Lehvie, further shrinking me in embarrassment. “It won’t make a dent in your treasury, though?”

“I apologize on the Princess’s behalf,” said Beck, his face was red.

“Hey!” Lehvie snapepd. “I’ve got nothing to be sorry for!”

I cringed when I recalled Crags telling Lehvie that the item was two thousand gold. I couldn’t stop her. But two thousand? I could buy a mansion with that kind of money!

I sighed. “There’s no point in worrying about it now.” That, and it was genuinely fun day.

Chapter End. 

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Author’s Notes:

Ver. 1.0.1 – Last Updated 012517

  • Minor Spelling fixed