Episode 52 – Herb Garden Fire
“1 speedometer, 1 mythril cube, 10 velvet curtains, 25 mahogany desks…” A middle-aged man recited, in a deep voice extremely pleasant to the ear. It caused shivers to the people present as if listening to the melodic purring of a lunar.
Although middle-aged, one wouldn’t be able to tell his real age at all judging from his flawless pearly white skin which was without any blemishes or wrinkles. Even the skin of his long elibu ears was flawlessly smooth and radiant.
However, the hair falling down his back like a waterfall of silk was even more radiant. The strands were whiter than the freshly fallen snow, seeming to glow in the darkness of the night, making one’s fingers twitch, yearning for nothing more than to caress it.
His bright purple eyes, which seemed to hide magic itself within their depths, quickly darted left and right as he read the parchment in front of him.
The man’s face was calm, showing neither confusion nor agitation, as he asked: “What is this? A shopping list?”
The two men standing in front of his desk shared a strange look.
One of the two, Zerel Reysic, flipped his long, dark purple hair and smiled good-naturedly. Even his yellow eyes seemed to be smiling, looking like bright crescent moons. He seemed to be completely relaxed in the presence of the white-haired man.
Unlike Zerel, the mood of the third person was anything but relaxed. Deora Thayn tried to keep his emotions off of his face, yet he was never good at it. Large crystal drops were sliding down the side of his face, and his back was already completely drenched.
Deora tried to mimic the same look Zerel had on his face, but his forced smile ended up looking even worse than a crying expression. Even an idiot would be able to tell that he was feeling guilty and nervous about something. Let alone the white-haired man, who had always been praised for his intelligence.
Deora glared at Zerel, trying to convey the message with his eyes: “You tell him.”
Zerel pretended not to understand him and blinked his eyes innocently.
After what seemed like two hours instead of two seconds, Deora bit his lip and spoke out. “Uh…it…isn’t a shopping list…it is a damage report…”
The white-haired man’s face didn’t change at all; his expression still as dignified and noble as ever. Saying that he looked like a flawless porcelain doll would be an insult, for even a master craftsman couldn’t reproduce this aura of divinity.
If Kiel were here to see his delicate and refined face, he would instantly feel a sense of comradery. But then Elaru would probably ruin the moment by suggesting them to join “Too-pretty-to-be-male” club.
Both Deora Thayn and Zerel Reysic were nobles and very handsome individuals. But there was handsome, and then there was Arite handsome. The difference between the two was like the difference between ugly and beautiful.
The radiance of the Arites eclipsed everyone and everything else.
And the person standing in front of them was no other than Eruan Arite, the headmaster of the Ashar University of Magic.
“Go on.” The melodic voice of Eruan Arite that sounded extremely pleasant to Zerel sounded like the voice of a demon to Deora.
“It isn’t my fault this time! It was caused by an examinee!” Deora proceeded to explain the select details of the incident.
Through the entire explanation, Eruan Arite showed no change in expression. He patiently listened with his fingers crossed, resting on the table in front of him.
“So, sir, I believe we should ban Elaru Wayvin from participating in the exams.” Deora concluded in, what seemed to be, a righteous tone.
Eruan stood silent for several moments, observing Deora and Zerel with his vivid purple eyes. “In your opinion, do you believe the incident to be an intentional breaking of Muni property?”
Both Deora and Zerel chose to answer at the same time.
The two looked at each other. Deora glaring daggers at Zerel, while Zerel still smiled innocently.
“Deora, I’ve already heard your side of the story. Zerel? What are your thoughts on the matter?” As Eruan’s voice fell, Zerel didn’t waste time and explained.
“The speed of the weaving went over the theoretical limit which is why the speedometer broke. It wasn’t that the girl wanted to break it – she just wanted to showcase her fastest casting speed. No one could have predicted that the glass couldn’t take the heat.”
Deora’s face looked exceedingly ugly as he listened to Zerel’s words. He wanted to speak up, but a single calm yet piercing look from Eruan shut him up.
“The second incident…we aren’t sure of the cause. Whether the cause had something to do with Elaru Wayvin has yet to be confirmed. And even if that was the case, I don’t believe it to be intentional.” Zerel paused briefly, his mouth twitching into a sly smirk. “And, if I might add, the cube broke in Deora’s hands.”
To reinforce his point, Zerel pointed towards Deora. Deora’s face was completely red at this point, ready to explode. He couldn’t contain it in any longer, and he roared out:
“Frakk! Don’t you dare pin this on me!! I am innocent!!!”
Eruan’s eyebrows furrowed just a little bit, but it was enough to silence Deora. His big yellow eyes looked almost ready to cry. His lip was entirely red from how much he was chewing on it.
After silencing Deora, Eruan’s purple gaze landed on Zerel. “Are you really clueless to the reason or are you pretending to be clueless?”
Eruan Arite was many things, but he wasn’t an idiot. He was very familiar with Zerel’s personality. He was also familiar with his worth. If Zerel said he doesn’t know something, then it was more probable that he was lying.
Eruan stared closely at Zerel’s face. However, he didn’t find any signs of deceit. Zerel’s annoying smile never wavered.
“Would I ever lie to you Eri?”
Yes. Definitely. – was what crossed through both Deora’s and Eruan’s mind.
“Neither one of us was able to find any clues on the matter. Eri, we really don’t know how it happened!”
As Eruan heard the name “Eri”, his eyebrow briefly twitched. However, he chose to ignore it. “If it isn’t intentional, we have nothing more to talk about.”
Deora couldn’t help but exclaim: “Does that mean that Elaru Wayvin won’t be banned from the exams?!”
“Naturally. Since it isn’t intentional, we have no basis on which to disqualify her.” Eruan sighed softly, for the first time showing signs of tiredness. The night had already fallen and yet he was still in his office, swamped with work. He didn’t have the time or patience to deal with Deora.
Hearing Eruan’s soft sigh, Deora figured that he wasn’t too angry, so he couldn’t help but show his displeasure. Like an angry toddler, he stomped his feet and grumbled: “Why are you taking his word over mine?! It is intentional! It is definitely intentional!”
Zerel looked at Deora, smiling slyly as if telling him: “Why do you think? I am more trustworthy than you.”
A vein started pulsing on Deora’s forehead. If you are trustworthy than the entire Shadow Lodge filled with criminals is trustworthy too!!
Eruan seemed to completely ignore Deora’s question and instead change the subject. “Your story explains the damages to the two artifacts…however…”
As the word “however” entered Deora’s ears, he involuntarily shivered. Was he wrong? Could it be that the bad part was yet to come??
“However, what happened to the rest of the objects on this damage report list?”
Deora froze. He had conveniently skipped over that part. He didn’t mention how he erupted into flames and ended up trashing the entire classroom. He hoped that Eruan wouldn’t catch on to it and decide to ask about it.
Deora looked towards Zerel, afraid that Zerel would tell on him.
Zerel looked back at him reassuringly, encouraging him to speak.
However, in his eyes glittered amusement. What encouragement?! The bastard is enjoying this!
Deora gritted his teeth. “Ah…that is…the jelly was hot so the room caught on fire…”
Eruan gave Deora a blank look. “What were you two doing at the time? Watching it spread? Why didn’t you put it out?”
Silence fell over the room.
Deora opened and closed his mouth like a fish. He couldn’t really speak the truth. But he couldn’t really find a reasonable explanation either.
Zerel, for some reason, (which must have been devious) chose to stay silent.
After several seconds of silence passed, Eruan was the first to break it. His face still as calm as ever, he spoke. “I see.”
Did he reach a conclusion on his own? Phew. So, I don’t have to explain?
Just as Deora was about to let out a breath of relief, thinking that the headmaster Eruan was done with his questioning, the next statement fell like lightning, making him dizzy.
“As usual, I’ll be deducting the damages from your monthly pay.”
Frakk! Of course he knew that it was my fault!
Headmaster Eruan opened the first drawer of his desk and picked up the first paper from the top of the stack. He looked over the paper and commented. “The remainder of your February pay should cover the damages.”
Deora gaped stupidly. He wanted to cry, but there were no tears. He felt wronged but couldn’t complain.
Just as he thought that the incident was finally over, he noticed the strange look on Zerel’s face.
Zerel spoke up gently in an innocently curious tone. “February pay? But Eri! We are in August.”
Eruan looked at Zerel and explained patiently. “Deora’s August pay has already been confiscated because of the damages caused by the incident that happened last March in the stables.”
Zerel’s face contorted, showing sudden enlightenment. “Ah!” He exclaimed in realization.
He looked back at Deora with a knowing look. “Don’t tell me that the September’s pay was also…?”
Eruan responded in the same emotionless tone. “15th of May, Herb Garden Fire.”
Zerel didn’t bother to conceal a snicker. He remembered that one. The look the herbalists had on their faces as they saw all their precious herbs go up in flames couldn’t be described with words. One had to see it firsthand.
Deora stood rooted to the spot, his face pale and tight-lipped.
“Could it be…that your pay for the next 6 months has already been deducted to cover for your vandalism?” Zerel exclaimed.
The statement seemed to wake Deora up, and his face turned from his previously pale one into tomato red equal to the color of his hair. “Shut up! It isn’t vandalism! It was an honest mistake! How was I supposed to know that those herbs were flammable?! You set me up!”
Zerel pretended to ponder for several seconds before feigning confusion. “Say…aren’t herbs usually flammable?”
Deora’s cheeks puffed up, he looked about ready to explode once again.
It was your fault in the first place!!! And you have the gall to pretend you don’t know what happened?!?
That day, Deora was teaching his class about herbs that could help in treating burns and creating fireproof artifacts. Therefore, he took his class to the Herb Garden so the students could see the herbs. As he was entering the Herb Garden, he met Zerel, who was leading his class out of the garden.
Zerel’s class was about surviving in the wilderness so he often took his students to the Herb Garden to point out common but useful herbs.
Unlike Zerel, who was familiar with the layout of the Herb Garden, Deora, who almost never came to Herb Garden, because his classes had nothing to do with herbs, didn’t know where he needed to go to find the fireproof herbs.
“Good-naturedly” Zerel pointed him in the “right” direction, and he found the herbs.
Surprisingly, in the middle of the class, a student spoke up claiming that Deora had misidentified the herbs.
Deora, as proud as he was, felt insulted. How could he make a mistake? It was clearly the herb he was looking for! Angered, wanting to show everyone that he didn’t make a mistake and wipe away the blemish off his reputation, he set the herbs on fire to prove they were the right ones.
Zerel had deliberately pointed him to the wrong section of the Herb Garden that contained herbs very similar in appearance.
So, the only thing Deora managed to prove is how fast a fire can spread inside a greenhouse.
The worst thing about the matter was that no one could prove that Zerel’s “mistake” was deliberate so Deora ended up being the only one punished.
And yet, Zerel dared pretend he didn’t know what happened!
Deora’s eye whites were red with blood, his eyebrow was uncontrollably twitching, trying to control his temper. He couldn’t erupt in front of the headmaster. Eruan might look calm and amiable, but that was exactly what made him so scary. A completely calm and rational person who couldn’t be influenced by emotions of pity. To Deora, his holy appearance looked anything but holy.
He had to wait until they were out of the headmaster’s room. Wait. Wait. Endure!
Unfortunately, Zerel, being the exact bane of Deora, didn’t give him any chance to endure: “What about November’s pay?”
As Eruan opened his mouth to respond, Deora bellowed: “Don’t answer that!!”