“Not exactly,” the woman said with a smile. Her answer wasn’t what I was expecting and my confusion must have shown because she quickly explained. “Not everyone who practices magic is a magician. In our circle, a magician is someone who practices a specific kind of magic. I am a magic-user but I do not practice the magic that would classify me as a magician.”
It was an explanation that made no sense and I took a look at Howard. He was maintaining a professional silence. I was on my own.
“So if you are not a magician, then you are…”
“In local terms, I’m a Rojak.”
“I’m not quite sure what that means.”
“You’re a local boy Mr. Wong. I’m sure you know what rojak is right?”
“A traditional fruit and vegetable salad dish where you throw in everything from fried tofu to pineapples, and then mix them up with a paste. Personally, I hate it.”
The look on the woman’s face was scandalous. What can I say; I don’t like rojak. It’s not a crime. Luckily for me, the woman rallied.
“Ha! You cyborgs sure has strange tastes. Rojak is great but we’re not here to discuss local food are we? I’m sure as a local, you know that in local slang, rojak means mixture. That’s what I am. I don’t practice a specific branch of magic. You can say I’m a general practitioner. If we were in Europe, that’s what I’ll be called. In the Far East, I would be a Wild. In the Americas, I would be a Freeform User. Here in the SEAL, I’m a Rojak.”
“Seems awfully complicated. Why not just call everyone who use magic a magician and be done with it?”
“The Art of Magic is wide, wild, and untamed. There are many schools of magic and many ways to use it. The titles of magician, mystics, shamans and such help tell us apart from one another. Isn’t it the same in science with your chemists, doctors, and engineers?”
Can’t argue with her there and even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t. This is the first time I am having contact with a real magic-user so I rather be safe than sorry. However I still need to make sure she’s the real thing. Left with no alternative, I went for it.
“True. However I do have a request. I do not want to cause offence but I need to confirm that you really can do magic. Perhaps a demonstration?”
Luckily for me, the woman seems to appreciate my caution and had prepared ahead. She took out a piece of green paper that had some Malay words written on it and placed the paper on the table. The lady touched it with one hand and murmured some words that were too low for me to hear. The piece of paper lit up. The piece of paper shone brightly and when the woman withdrew her hand, some blue particles floated up from it. I immediately activated my cybernetic eye.
The recent upgrade I received from the System enabled me to read energy signatures and I was glad for the upgrade. It told me that the blue particles were a configuration of light, steam, and electrical energy. As the strange mixture rises, the three energy signatures danced around each other as if they were in a symphony. These readings were like nothing I had ever seen.
As the energy raised ever upwards, they condensed and an image appeared. There was a sound. It took me a second to place it; it was the sound of a flying car. The image shook and then changed. Buildings flew past and I realized the image was showing me the view of the Singapore skyline as I was zipping past in a flying car. Outside the sound, the image also showed rays of sunlight and strange as it was, I could swear that I felt the heat of the sun from the image.
I switched my focus from the image to the piece of paper. Holographic images were hardly unknown but they all require a machine to play. This image was played from a piece of paper and my cybernetic eye scanned the paper to make sure this demonstration wasn’t some trick or sleight of hand. I had never heard of any device tiny enough to be hidden on a piece of paper but you never know.
My scan told me what I already suspected. The piece of paper had no tiny electronic devices on it. In fact, I couldn’t see any power source. The piece of paper wasn’t even emitting any energy which made no sense to my scientific mind. It was as bright as a light bulb. I realized then why Howard had introduced us.
In a way this piece of paper the woman was using was very similar to my cards. They were both able to release power without any proper scientific explanation behind them. My amazement hit a stop when I realized another problem. I quickly looked around and another amazing sight hit me; none of the guests or servers in the restaurant care about the light show! The lady noticed my confusion and placed her hand back on the piece of paper. The image disappeared.
“Do not worry Mr. Wong. This restaurant serves as a meeting place between the magic world and the mundane. We are perfectly safe here.”
I was shocked though I guess I shouldn’t be. It could explain why there were so few guests at the very least.
“You mean everyone in this restaurant is a magic-user?”
“No. Some of them are but others are like you and Mr. Djajadi; normal people who had contact with the magical world and require our services. This restaurant serves as one of the places where we can discuss business without fear.”
I could do nothing but nod. I was in unfamiliar territory so I could do nothing but accept her word for it.
“Ms. Nor, that light show just now. Was that magic?”
“It’s Madam actually. I’m married and yes, that was magic. A branch of it most commonly called ‘rune magic’. It’s not as powerful as your card but the magic is from the branch.”
“My cards are from this ‘rune magic’? I was told it was a talisman.”
“One question at a time Mr. Wong. May I know if you had bought another of these cards?”
So that’s how it’s going to be. A one to one exchange where I need to give her something for each answer. I thought about it for a moment but I don’t really had much of an option. I took out a card, one that was a little used, and gave it to her. Her hand took the card steadily but her eyes betrayed her intense interest. The woman looked at the card carefully before putting it down on the table.
“A first grade rune. The spell is a low-level Tier 2 protection spell but the rune is first grade. Whoever did this is a master runesmith.” The lady then stared at me with a look of hunger. “Tell me Mr. Wong, where did you get these cards?”