Episode 14 - Homeschooled

In the previous Episode:

Elaru reveals her connection to Hot Pot. Kiel doesn’t want to share a room with her, let alone the small bed in the room. Elaru teases him about it and reveals the existence of two important (and eccentric) people in her life – her father and cousin she grew up with.

Episode 14 – Homeschooled

Kiel took off his sword, and bags. He started taking off his arm protectors when Elaru stopped him.

“Don’t take it off. Your brand will be visible.”

She was talking about the mark of the Aetherneal Bond.

Kiel almost forgot about the mark. Well, he would have remembered as soon as he saw it. But remembering only after seeing the brand would be unacceptable in the future. Who is to say someone else wouldn’t be in the room with him?

I should learn some light magic in the future to camouflage the brand. Light magic is a branch of transmutation magic that specializes in the manipulation of light, which can be used in a wide variety of ways, such as changing the color of things, making them emit light or making them invisible.

“How about I teach you how to hide the brand?” Elaru offered him her left hand without waiting for his response. “Pay attention.”

Elaru slowed down her spell casting intentionally so Kiel could catch every movement of her mana.

When she wasn’t concealing her presence, she was like a bright sun – countless tendrils of light formed by her mana surrounded her and danced a slow, chaotic dance.

When she started casting the spell, the mana around her arm stopped moving aimlessly and instead started congregating into a single spot. It was like the mana drops were snowflakes blown by the wind, they layered on top of each other, forming a curvy pattern.

The attraction force mashing them together didn’t lessen at all, like gravity it pulled at them harder and harder until individual drops of mana could no longer be seen. They turned from countless gaseous particles into a liquid ribbon of bright light. If mana drops were little stars, then that ribbon was the moon. When it appeared, all else dimmed.

That formed, bright pattern of light was “the spell”. Association of Magic defined “a spell” to be a reality altering phenomena. And just like its definition foretold, a soft pulse of magic power spread out from it, creating a distortion in reality.

After the initial pulse, the spell started revolving around Elaru’s arm on its own in a periodic dance. This special movement of the spell continued to distort the reality around her arm.

Kiel saw that spell in a book covering the basic types of magic. It was a basic color manipulation light magic spell.

As Elaru exerted control over the spell, it started moving around like a hyperactive child, causing the black markings on her arm to fade out until they completely disappeared.

Technically, a spell was still made out of Elaru’s mana, and she could exercise her mana control to deform the spell. However, if drops of mana were like drops of water, then a spell would be a block of ice. If she tried shifting the mana forming it, it would break and fall apart.

Once the phenomena forms, the pattern and the form become fixed. The spell becomes linked to the mage as if it was an extra limb and the caster can innately control it as a whole. This control over the spell is exactly what was known as “spell control”. It is an entirely different concept from mana control.

The spell Elaru cast wasn’t a solid-state spell, which meant that the distortion of reality would be detected as an anomaly and reality itself would reject it, continuously attempting to revert back to its previous state.

To keep the new color of her markings from reverting back to black, the spell would need to keep distorting the reality. And that continuous distortion would use up mana. The moment that the spell ran out of mana, it would attempt to feed on mana it is made out of, which would cause it to deteriorate until it fell apart and dissolved into nothingness.

Since this was a mage-sustained spell (as opposed to self-sustained spells), that meant Elaru had to constantly feed it mana to prevent it from breaking. This process was like breathing, she could consciously control it, but it usually came effortlessly and didn’t require her to dedicate her attention to it.

Kiel grabbed Elaru’s arm and looked at it closely. The place where the mark used to be, turned into flawless skin. Her spell control was so fine she managed to make her markings the exact color shade of her skin.

In his amazement, he involuntarily touched the place where the markings were supposed to be. The skin was smooth to the touch and revealed no sign that it was black a second ago.

Well, the skin didn’t reveal any sign, Elaru however, did. She gasped softly and pulled her wrist out of his grasp.

Kiel looked up at her face, surprised by her sudden motion. A beautiful reddish tint covered her cheeks.

He stared at her in wonder. It was the first time he saw her flustered about something. That reckless, headstrong Elaru that was unperturbed by the world, was blushing like a little girl. He couldn’t believe his own thoughts, but this flushing Elaru had an irresistible charm to her.

At that moment, she looked pure, even vulnerable. That color suited her, made her look compellingly adorable.

Seeing her like this brought incredible satisfaction to Kiel.

Elaru was a rare specimen. Seeing her blush was even rarer. It was rare squared!

“What’s wrong?” He asked her. He had to know what could make her blush. He felt like he was close to discovering a weapon of mass destruction. It was imperative that he learned about it!

“Don’t touch my markings.” She responded in a soft tone. Her voice sounded so pleasant to the ear. Kiel was sure that if he were an elibu, his ears would have perked up.

“Why?” Was it an elibu thing? Were they sensitive about their markings?

“It feels weird when you touch it.” She responded.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Kiel frowned. “Who is afraid of cooties here?” He smirked. This was good, he finally had something on her. Something he could use in the future. This was an excellent day!

“I’ll need to engrave the details of that pattern into my memory before I am able to cast it.”

Elaru nodded. “You can work on that after dinner.” The color of her face returned to normal quickly.

Before going down to dinner, she moved towards the desk where they left their equipment. She reached into one of the pouches on the desk and took out something wrapped in thin metallic paper.

It was a fist-sized metal object with numerous engravings on it, shaped in a form of an egg. The egg was sliced into multiple rotatable rings. This egg was a puzzle that had many possible configurations. It was near impossible to find the right position of all rings.

Elaru twisted them one by one in various directions. When she twisted the last one, the egg clicked softly. The engravings started glowing and a spell spread in two-meter radius around the table.

As she placed it on the table, even though it was round, it stood stably on it without any signs of being unstable.

Is this what I think it is?

Kiel’s eyes glittered. He had always had a high interest in magical arrays because the process of making them didn’t require him to use his own mana. With enough money, even a non-mage could become an arrayist.

He considered becoming an arrayist, but he would need to invest a lot of time to it for it to become useful. And since what attracted him to the profession wasn’t the profession itself but the product, he felt reluctant about pursuing that path.

It would be like a swords master trying to become the greatest blacksmith just so he could forge a greatest sword for himself.

Kiel reached out his hand towards the table, but his hand stopped in midair as if there was an invisible wall in front of him. The spell that the artifact activated created a protective barrier that locked down space on the borders of the barrier preventing anyone other than the original user from going in or out of it.

He nodded in appreciation. Even though Elaru seemed to lack common sense and not pick up some obvious clues when it came down to quest seeker related business she was a pro. Even though the room was secure, one could never be careful enough.

This protective barrier ensured that no one would be able to steal their items unless the thief could break it. And the people who had the capability to break it wouldn’t be interested in robbing them. It would be like an emperor secretly breaking into a peasant’s house to steal food. Ridiculous and utterly pointless.

Kiel looked at Elaru from the corner of his eyes. She seemed reckless on the outside, but actually, she was pretty careful about things.

He found her rather hard to understand. Her personality seemed inconsistent. He could never tell if she was going to take things seriously or not. She wasn’t like Kiel, who had a bad personality and pretended to be a good guy. She seemed to be true to herself. It was just that that “self” was hard to define.

 

 

The tavern was filled with people and indiscernible chatter spread into every nook and cranny of the place. The smell of roasted meat mixed with the sweet smell of caramel spread to every corner of the tavern.

Kiel and Elaru were seated around a small table, sipping on honeymead, awaiting their meal. Honeymead was a popular nonalcoholic creamy beverage that melted on the tongue, leaving a mellow sweet taste similar to caramel or honey. It was a refreshing drink that could be drunk both hot and cold.

Kiel expected Elaru to order some exotic alcoholic beverage so he was surprised when she ordered just regular honeymead. She also ordered the “Chef’s special” as her meal of choice leaving him reluctant to do the same. While she did seem to have a similar taste in beverages as him, that didn’t mean she would have the same taste in food.

Instead of ordering the same as her, he looked at the table next to them and ordered: “What that guy is having.”

It looked like a kebab. The meat glistened and glittered brightly, dripping sweet smelling juices all over the plate. Kiel licked his lips. He liked meat. Especially this kind, which was juicy and melted on the tongue without much chewing.

The waitress serving them was a thin elibu girl with pale skin and numerous freckles all over her face. Her shoulder-length orange hair did nothing to conceal the redness spreading through her long pointy ears.

Elaru seemed to know the girl because she called her by the name “Pixy” and started up a conversation with her as soon as she arrived to take their orders. (which ultimately resulted in other customers complaining about the delay.)

The girl looked at Elaru with reverence and was very excited to chat with her. She threw many not-so-sneaky glances at Kiel but was too flustered to talk to him. Each time her eyes met his icy blue ones her face and ears turned especially red. When he smiled at her, she almost dropped her tray. Luckily she was standing next to Elaru, and she caught it so effortlessly, without even looking at it, that one would think she knew it would fall.

Kiel continued smiling self-satisfied. Ah, now this was the reaction he was used to. This kind of girl was easy to deal with. So unlike the annoying redhead that seemed completely blind to his charm, who enjoyed nothing more than to tease him.

Kiel even caught her “stealthily” giving Elaru a thumbs up when she thought he wasn’t looking. Elaru responded with a confident thumbs-up, her face saying “no problem, no problem”. She thought the girl was giving her the gesture because she helped her out with the tray, completely oblivious to the real meaning.

He smiled wryly. Idiot.

 

While they were waiting for their meals to arrive Kiel thought about his day and the upcoming exams. There were less than three days until the start of the exams. And he wasn’t ready. He needed to get used to his new abundance of mana and learn as many spells as he could in this short period.

The Ashar University of Magic was an academy that accepted only geniuses among geniuses. The difficulty of the exam could be imagined.

Kiel wondered if Elaru had any skill in battle. If she was good enough, he could use her as an opponent to practice his own combat ability.

He also needed to test out the distance he could be away from Elaru and what would happen if they passed it. He needed to test out the changes that happened to him as a result of Aetherneal bond. Aetherneal bond, Aetherneal gifts, what are they? His curiosity was peaked.

He was surprised when the food finally arrived. That’s because both his and Elaru’s dish looked identical. Ah, so that kebab was actually the chef’s special.

Kiel’s evaluation of Elaru immediately rose. They had similar taste in food and drink. Who knows, they might share some other similarities too.

He waited for the food to cool down a bit, but she cast a temperature manipulation magic to cool it down and started eating immediately.

He stared at her in silence. Does she do everything with magic? How close was she to levitating her meat with acceleration magic instead of using her hands? Where does she draw the line between convenience and abuse?

Now that he had enough mana to abuse it, where should he draw the line?

As he stared at her, his mind pinpointed an irregularity.

He would have expected her dining etiquette to be lacking, but her eating manners were flawless. It wasn’t the same as the etiquette he was thought as a noble, hers was more practical. She handled her utensils as if they were weapons – with grace and precision.

He had never seen anything like it before. If her eating was faster and more efficient than his but still had the grace and manner expected from a noble, would that mean the etiquette she was taught was of a higher level than his?

Did she receive the education befitting a noble? Or was this skill gained through the usage of a specific weapon?

“Elaru, what high school did you go to?” Kiel started out his excavation of her personal information with a simple question.

She paused her eating briefly to respond. “I never went to school. Muni is my last chance to experience the joys of public education.”

Joys of public education? Was there such a thing? All he could see were flaws. And besides, Muni wasn’t a public institution, it was privately owned.

Kiel wasn’t surprised by her answer, well, the first part of her answer. Most nobles with high standing had a personal tutor.

He didn’t let her off and continued his questioning. “Were you homeschooled?”

Elaru didn’t respond for a while. She seemed to be pondering what to say. “All the things I know were either taught to me by papa or learned by personal experience.”

Kiel paused mid bite. “Are you trying to tell me you weren’t homeschooled?”

Elaru scratched her head. “Well, I can’t be homeschooled if I don’t have a home. I’ve been traveling with papa my whole life. So it was a somewhat unorthodox method of schooling.”

Kiel’s expression darkened. How much can a single person teach? It’s not like her father is the most powerful mage in the land of Halnea. Experience is a great teacher, but there are certain things that experience can’t teach you.

Elaru picked up on his worries. “Don’t underestimate my knowledge and ability. Adventuring is the best way to learn new stuff. For example, what better way is there to learn how to fight than fighting itself or watching other people fight?”

Kiel nodded. Fighting was one of the subjects better taught by performing it than learning the theory behind it. She didn’t pause and continued with her high speech. “What better way to learn how to cook than to work in the kitchens of a famous restaurant?”

He continued nodding. Makes sense, makes sense.

“What better way to train your own balance and coordination than to join the circus?”

Kiel’s nodding froze for a second before he hesitantly nodded again. I guess…?

“What better way to learn about different types of poison and their antidotes then to try them out yourself?”

Kiel’s nodding stilled, and his expression froze. Wait, what?

Elaru paid him no attention as she continued with her self-righteous speech.

“What better way to train your own mana weaving then to try to survive and eventually break out of prison which has an anti-mana-weaving artifact?”

Eeeh?!  Kiel’s face paled, and he blurted out. “Who would do that?! Isn’t that too extreme?!”

His words brought her out of her weird mood, and she looked at him strangely. She pressed her lips into a thin line to keep her mouth shut.

Oh for the love of fate…she couldn’t be talking about her own experiences…could she?

Kiel closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. What kind of…I don’t even…what?

Coming up in the next episode:

Elaru finally noticed that her speech didn’t have the desired effect and she coughed to attract Kiel’s attention before waving it off and changing the subject. “My point is, I am a genius, according to papa.”

He felt the chills traveling down his spine. Don’t give me that look! Didn’t you say you weren’t romantically interested in me?

She surprised her revulsion and steeled her resolve. “Has my fiancé been bothering you?”

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