Episode 24 – Burrowing Windroot

In the previous Episode:

Elaru tells Kiel that Aetherneal bond increased their recovery speed, and he doesn’t need healing elixirs to be able to perform mana tempering effectively. She reveals that she is familiar with acupuncture and can even help increase his rate of recovery through it.

However, as Kiel reaches his threshold of tolerance and is about to stop mana tempering to allow his body to recover, Elaru knocks him unconscious with a single needle -“Your speedy recovery isn’t in my interests right now. Hang tight, sleep well, and let me attend to my own business.” – Then she takes his body and disappears.

Episode 24 – Burrowing Windroot

Eryey Mainhouse, Ashar

Countless bright rays of light illuminated a spacious room inside a remote manor. Yet the only thing that could be seen through the windows was the darkness of night.

A middle-aged man in a white coat and green slippers moved about the room. His handsome features couldn’t be covered up, not even by his sloppiness. His wavy gray hair did its utmost in its unruly attempts to fall over his face. Thankfully, the advance of the strands was halted by the strange looking goggles resting securely on top of his head.

Both his silvery hair, and the black lines and circles marking the left side of his forehead, looked several shades darker when contrasted against his sickly pale face.

The man chewed on a long straw hanging from the corner of his mouth like a cigar. It looked similar to a stick of cinnamon, it even tasted similar – sweet and spicy, yet, it was actually burselpine bark.

It was the medical properties of burselpine, which kept the mind alert and awake, that caused it to become his trademark feature. He could have opted to drink coffee instead, but he hated the bitter taste.

The man busied himself with various strange items littered around the room, not the least bothered by the messy state of his chambers. Although there were many shelves, cabinets, and desks filled to the brim with papers, books, vials and strange apparatus, he seemed to know exactly where everything was.

The only object in the room that was perfectly clean and tidy was a leather couch, which, of course, looked completely out of place.

Suddenly, as if appearing out of thin air, right next to the couch, another person materialized. Ixos instantly felt the foreign presence. However, instead of being startled, as a normal person would be if someone popped up in their private residence, he didn’t even turn around to look at the newcomer.

He continued observing a small vial in his hand with a completely nonchalant expression. He shook the vial a few times before finally speaking out casually: “What took you so long?”

The other figure scratched her head and sighed. “I got sidetracked.” She flung a body off of her shoulder onto the nearby couch as if taking off a bag.

The man turned to look at the beautiful redhead and complained half-heartedly. “Oy, oy. I got the couch replaced just this morning.”

The girl smiled at him warmly. “Don’t worry.” He isn’t bleeding so… “He won’t get any blood on it.”

A normal person would have asked why she got sidetracked. A normal person would have asked her why she had an unconscious person slung over her shoulder. A normal person would have asked her who was napping on their couch.

Not Ixos Eryey1.

He behaved as if all of it was a perfectly normal occurrence. As if there was nothing strange going on.

The girl’s smile suddenly vanished, and she looked at the man suspiciously. “Wait…what happened to the old couch?”

The man’s expression didn’t change at all as he explained. “Nothing much. Nothing much. I accidentally spilled one of my experiments on it.”

Elaru Wayvin furrowed her eyebrows. Couldn’t he clean it up? Why did he get another couch?

Realization dawned on her, and she chuckled. “How big of a hole did your concoction leave? What did you do with the old couch? Where is it?”

He looked at her, his expression nonchalant as if he was talking about the weather. “You are looking at it.”

Elaru stared at him confused until her eyes fell on the small vial in Ixos’ hand. It was filled with a vile looking green liquid.

R.I.P. The old couch. You shall be missed.

Well, not really, no one cares about a couch.

After a few moments of silence, Elaru coughed dryly and changed the conversation topic. “So…I got you those burrowing windroots you wanted…”

The man’s previously emotionless emerald green eyes started glittering in excitement. He held out his hand like a child asking for candy.

His usually gray and calm aura lit up with strands of white. Elaru stifled a chuckle and took off her backpack. She dug around it until she found what she was looking for. She pulled out a platinum box and tossed it towards Ixos. The box was simple and didn’t look special at all, but the man treated it like a treasure.

Ixos couldn’t hold in his excitement, and he opened it right away.

There were no jewels or magical artifacts inside. No, the box was filled with dark orange roots, yet the man’s entire person glowed in delight as if he had stumbled upon a priceless gem. “What a good harvest! So many, and all of them are in perfect condition, fully matured too. You always bring me the best stuff!”

He turned to Elaru looking at her as if she was his long lost kin, almost moved to tears. He ruffled her hair warmly as if he was dealing with a small child. “Good work my little munchkin!”

Elaru smiled wryly and didn’t even bother pointing out that she was neither little nor a child anymore.

Ixos took out one of the roots and brought it closer to his eyes. “The sturdy yet mild nature of burrowing windroot is exactly what I need to combine the rest of the ingredients.”

He managed to chuckle in satisfaction without dropping the burselpine stick he was chewing on. “I just need a few other minor ingredients, and then I’ll be able to make a whole new variety of tempering pills. They will be the most potent pills on the market!”

Elaru sighed in resignation. “Uncle Ixos…that’s exactly what you said the last time too…”

“Aha!” He pointed a finger in the air. “And it was exactly as I said. Behold!”

He went over to one of his cabinets and pulled out a small box that looked exactly the same as the one Elaru had just given him. He chucked it towards her nonchalantly, as if the box didn’t contain anything fragile or expensive inside.

Elaru caught the box carefully, a wry smile on her face.

Ixos Eryey had a very bizarre personality. He treated rare medical ingredients as priceless treasures, but after producing pills or elixirs out of them, he would completely lose interest. While other alchemists were concocting pills for the sake of the pills, he was concocting them for the sake of concocting.

It was like a child playing with jigsaw puzzle pieces. He would take a lot of time and effort to put the pieces together, but once the picture is complete, it’s not interesting at all. It is just a picture; it can’t be played with further. While some might display that completed puzzle as their proud achievement, Ixos would just fling it aside and find another incomplete puzzle to play with.

While the insides of the box were priceless treasures to others, to Ixos, it was just a toy he was finished playing with.

As soon as Elaru opened the box, a sweet fruity aroma with the tinge of spiciness reached her nose. The box was padded with velvet cushions, securing three large translucent pearls. They were cherry red, glittering in the light like glass marbles, but in the eyes of her Aethernea, those candy-like pills looked like little suns, glowing so brightly it was almost blinding.

While she was admiring the pills, Ixos put away the box with the roots and started scribbling on a small piece of paper.

“So, here is what I’ll be needing next.” His handwriting was, unsurprisingly, messy; yet the curvy, barely legible words had a certain beauty to them.

Elaru closed the pill box and put it in her backpack. “Sorry uncle. I won’t be able to get you any more ingredients for a while.”

Ixos didn’t stop scribbling. “Why?”

She approached him, with her hands clasped behind her back. “I am enrolling into Muni this year.”

Tha man’s shoulders stiffened, and he abruptly stopped scribbling.

The Ashar University of Magic was a place that created unparalleled geniuses that would grow to become the pillars of Halnea. A place where only the chosen could enter. A place that most people considered a holy land of magic.

But for her…

For her, Muni was the land of light, while she was a phantom that dwelled in the shadows. One wrong step was all it took to disintegrate all the shadows protecting her and reveal her true form.

For her, Muni was too dangerous, tantamount to walking on the edge of life and death.

Would her father let her go through with it? Just like that?

“…”

What a silly question…of course, he would…

Elaru had been born standing on the edge. And she had never stopped walking on it. Or to be more precise, she couldn’t step down. All she could do was continue walking, making the edge her domain, turning it into her world.

Ixos frowned and scratched the stubble on his chin. Her mind was already set. He couldn’t do anything to stop her. But he still felt the need to voice his opinion. “It’s a bad idea.”

Elaru sighed, but her eyes showed no hesitation. “I am out of ideas. You know just as well as I that Muni had always been our last resort. I am stuck at a dead end.” She laughed softly. It was a laugh that contained no humor, only resignation. “I don’t know where else to look.”

Ixos gave her a deadpan expression and responded. “In the Milkywyrm Forest.”

Elaru looked at him with shock. “What?”

He pointed to the list of ingredients he had just finished writing. “Moonfruit grows in Milkywyrm forest.”

Elaru’s resigned smile froze. This apathetic uncle of hers had no sense of humor, which means that he was quite serious. After a brief pause, she chose to pretend that this intrusion didn’t happen. “There is a professor in Muni that might be able to help. So…Muni is my best bet right now.”

Ixos’ expression didn’t change at all, still as phlegmatic as ever, he responded: “None of these things grow in Muni.”

Elaru didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. She sighed again before accepting the list. “I’ll see what I can do…but it is better if you don’t expect anything.”

She turned away from Ixos, looking at Kiel sleeping soundly on the couch. She gripped the crystal pendant around her neck and murmured quietly. “Maybe this is my fate…”

Ixos’ long pointy ears twitched, picking up on the almost inaudible words. Elaru walked towards the couch, preparing to leave when Ixos’ words made her steps halt.

“If there is such a thing as fate, then changing fates of others would be my job.”

Elaru smiled sadly. Didn’t you stop taking patients years ago? That used to be your job, but because of what happened…

She swallowed down her words and changed the subject. “Get some rest. The black circles around your eyes are darker than the circles on your forehead.”

Ixos hmmmed before replying “What day is it? I might have lost track of time.”

Elaru’s mouth twitched. “Saturday.”

Ixos stared at her blankly before asking. “Which Saturday?”

“Go get some sleep before I knock you out!!” Elaru shook her fist threateningly.

What a pain… Ixos frowned and put up his hands in surrender. “I’m going. I’m going.”

“Start by removing that burselpine out of your mouth.” Elaru shook her head helplessly.

Ixos unwillingly took his chewing stick out of his mouth, frowning the entire time, before he pocketed it. After removing it, he just stood there looking at Elaru.

“What?”

“How can I sleep if your pet is already occupying the couch?”

“…” Elaru’s mouth twitched. Moron, you have a king sized bed upstairs!

Ixos responded with a blank look. You know I feel the most relaxed in my lab. I can’t sleep anywhere else.

“Why don’t you just move your bed in here then?”

Ixos stared at her vacantly for a while before looking around his room. It might fit. If not, I’ll demolish the wall.

He started nodding to no one in particular. Why didn’t I think of that?

Ixos Eryey

1 Ixos Eryey [ee-ks-uh z er-yeey] (click to go back)

Coming up in the next episode:

Her goal was deep inside the wall of the canyon.

Her steps suddenly stilled, her excited expression replaced by shock.

“Allegedly it has something to do with the soul. And the return of the gods. Perhaps it can help you find what you seek? Or perhaps it might warn you of the impending crisis? If it is meant to be, I’m sure you’ll figure it out. For now, just think of it as a lucky charm.”

She was indeed coming closer. Her eyes glittered, her heart thumped hard in anticipation.

To her surprise, no matter how she tried to go around him she always ended up going towards him.

Is he a wielder of an Aethernea?

 

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