I felt rather miserable for the next few days. On top of the broken rib tormenting me, my special lady time started. The first one. You could imagine my embarrassment when I had to call Maggie because of the messy sheets.
"I'm so sorry," I said to her in a small voice, my face red.
"Oh, don't worry! It's completely normal. Your first one?" She asked with a supporting smile.
This made me pause for a moment, it definitely was the first one in this world, but I couldn't remember any from before. Furrowing my brows in confusion, I hesitantly nodded.
"Normally, I would've given you medicine to speed it up, but it's not an option for now," Maggie said apologetically.
"Does it always feel... This bad?" I asked, keeping my legs stuck to each other.
"Yep," She said with a tinge of compassion in her voice. She then asked, "Do you have spare pajamas?"
Of course. I have completely forgotten. Painfully getting from the stool, I looked down at some smeared blood. From a hygienic standpoint, this world was far behind my own. It came as no surprise that ladies suffered more, especially in this context.
"Oh no," I muttered, clutching my stomach and dejectedly looking at the mess I've made.
"Don't worry, I'll fetch you some pads," Maggie said. She rolled up the sheets and ran off with them, but not before making sure no one could peek into my little 'room'.
The thing she brought was exactly what I imagined it would be, well, a pad of absorbent material I was supposed to stick in my panties. It was better than nothing, but far from perfect. At least I didn't have to stick anything up there.
Having changed clothes and with the disaster taken care off, I took Chopsticks out of the drawer and returned to my previous activity; meditating. Ever since Nec's promise and our deal, I've been at it as long as my sanity allowed me to. There weren't any results yet, but I was quite certainly motivated.
Every day I've been visited by friends, Eina, and Nec. At some point, Lili started to lend me her notebooks so I could copy her notes. If that wasn't enough, Nec managed to get the teachers to visit me in the infirmary for private lessons. You can imagine my shock when the Awyn came in with entire blackboard and started a lecture about energy deduction just for me.
It was the same with all of my teachers, except for two. In Gand's case, it was simply because there was not enough space to practice casting in the infirmary, and my essence was still rather stifled. Of course, lessons with Orion were also impossible due to my injury.
Nec also started to teach me personally, specifically Spell Model Theory and the self-control techniques he learned from the monks. There was more to it than just meditation, it was a way of life. Not that I was very enthusiastic to follow it.
At some point, I had to interrupt him and ask, "Celibate? Really?"
"Well, that's what the monks do," Nec replied with a shrug. "You don't have to worry about it."
"Of course, I would prefer if you didn't go too crazy either..." He started in a fatherly tone.
"Listen. Two ladies can't make a baby- so it's fine, right?" I reasoned like a rebellious daughter, loving every second of it.
Letting out a chuckle, he replied, "Of course, just take it slow. The society over there is not as sexualized as ours. I would say they are at the level of the nineteen forties in that aspect. Dating and premarital sex exist, so society is in a weird spot." He paused to stroke his beard before continuing, "For nobility, the woman is supposed to stay pure until her marriage, but the man doesn't have to. Oldschool double standards I would say."
"Huh." Feeling that something funny was incoming, I pursed my lips and said, "I hope you don't plan to give me the birds and bees talk or whatever. It's way too late for that."
"A shame. I had an entire spreadsheet prepared," Nec said with a sigh. I couldn't tell if he was joking or not, or which option was funnier. "Anyway, let's get started with the Spell Models," He said.
"Wait," I said, tapping my chin. "Last time you said that you would explain the basics of magic to me."
"You've already had that on your regular lessons though," Nec said with a raised eyebrow.
"You promised, and your version is more important to me," I said with a pout.
"Alright," He said with a glint in his eye. Clearing his throat, he started narrating, "There are two general ways to describe the theory of magic. Well, maybe three. The most grounded one and the one I personally prefer is based on numbers."
"Oh no," I muttered.
"Oh yes!" Nec excitedly said. "It describes the reality using math, and magic as a calculation we forcibly inject into the equation by the usage of Essence. In this case, Essence is the wild element that allows us to perform magic, but it technically doesn't exist in reality."
Confused, I frowned and asked, "Then why can I feel it when I cast? In my body?"
"A mystery, but not an unsolvable one," Nec replied with a faint smile. "As for the other two theories, they're more abstract. One describes the world as painting and Essence as the brush. In this model, magic is a temporary paint that soon fades from the painting of reality, hence no spell can be permanent."
"Oh, so the third one is the one they taught us, " I commented, recalling the bizarre theory.
Smiling, Nec asked, "Why don't you tell me what you remember then?"
Racking my brains, I replied, "The universe is Heaven's dream and Essence is our way to manifest effects within. Like a real dream, we are the random elements that can derail the dream, but unlike a dream, not forever."
"That's about it, I personally dislike it, "Nec said with a scoff. "It's the oldest one so it's taught first because its effectiveness was proven. The painting one is taught once you reach five stars and the last one is the newest one." He stuck out his chest and proudly said, "I was one of the three people who worked on that theory. It's still relatively new."
Doing my best to remember every word, I crossed my arms and nodded my head. After a few moments, a light went off in my mind and I asked, "Is that why Sorcerers can't really cast?"
"Hmm? Explain what you're thinking about," He said with a glint in his eye.
"Essence is an ethereal element, not found in the world, right?" I asked to be sure that my conjecture had any basis.
"Yes," He quickly replied, looking excited.
"Then the Sorcerers struggle because if it's not bound to something, it cannot be maintained in reality?" I asked, looking for a confirmation on his face.
Clapping his hands, he said, "I'm so glad you're this smart!"
"Ehm, thanks. So, am I right?" I asked, elated that he praised me.
"That's exactly the reason! Now then, how do I cast spells without an element?" He asked with a mysterious smile.
Frowning, I said, "You said that you're cheating with some spell models."
"But how am I cheating, sweety?" He asked again, his smile growing wider.
"Uhh. Dunno, maybe you bind it to air molecules or whatever's nearby? How am I supposed to know?" I asked, feeling vexed that he was acting this mysterious.
Jumping to his feet, he pointed at me and exclaimed, "Yes!" Without sitting down, he ignored how startled I was by his sudden outburst and continued: "Elemental mages can cast because their elements exist in reality. Essence is used up to create or summon it, there are various theories about it, but that's the gist of it!"
"Then what about Arcane?" I asked, hoping to learn something about this taboo topic.
Getting a hold of himself, Nec sat back down and contemplated in silence. In the end, he replied, "This is not a topic you're ready for."
"Okay, whatever," I replied, seemingly disinterested, but annoyed that no one wanted to teach me about it.
The rest of the lesson wasn't as interesting, but I was glad to be spending time with Nec so I couldn't complain.
Three weeks later, I was finally detoxed enough to be able to drink a potion. Using a [Strong Healing Potion], I fixed my rib. It cracked into place and after a moment of pain, it was as if I never were hurt in the first place. Lying in bed for over a month was terrible, even if I had plenty of attention from everyone.
Having said goodbyes to Sir Cana and to Maggie, I headed to girls dormitory using the longest path I knew of. Being a rather active girl, I hated sitting in place for long so some walking would do me good. It was a sunny day, the birds chirped and many of the students were outside.
I soon received many gazes, some people I never knew even waved to me so I returned the gesture. It repeated itself many times, making me realize how conspicuous I really was. The combination of exotic features and Chopsticks on my shoulder made it easy to guess my identity.
Walking near an alchemical garden, I sniffed in the overbearing mix of scents and sighed. It was a nice change from the sanitary smell of the infirmary.
"A pretty lady came all the way there just to visit me? I'm moved," A silvery voice coming from behind a nearby bush startled me. Valus, wearing a stained apron, came out from behind it and grinned at me. He asked, "Why didn't you tell everyone that you're leaving the infirmary today?"
"I want to surprise the girls," I replied. My eyebrow raised, I looked at his long hair tied into a ponytail and the apron. "I forgot you're studying alchemy."
"Oh, so you didn't come to visit me?" He asked with a fake disappointment.
"Yeah, yeah. We'll catch up later. Don't tell anyone you've seen me." I said to him with a roll of my eyes.
"Sure thing, I need to harvest more of this garbage anyway. I should be getting the eight star any time now," He replied, tapping his shoulder and frowning when his dirty hand left a green stain behind.
Chuckling, I wished him good luck and went on my way, wondering how Eina was doing. She visited me every day, but always evaded describing her day, focusing on mine. I knew that something was up because no sane person would want to listen about literally nothing happening all day.
I met some other familiar faces on the way, mostly from my classes. Stopping for a short conversation was something I had to do, even if I hated it. Being social was tiring. I just wanted to see Eina and Lili.
On top of that, some random dudes started approaching me. I thought that Maggie was being overly dramatic when she told me that herds of boys lined up to the infirmary, trying to get a chance to win some points with me. Yep, I was the hot commodity now, and everyone seemed to have forgotten that I came to the ball with another girl.
Nothing changed, except random people approaching me more often that is. No girl tried to hit on me, at least I haven't realized if they did. Most only thanked me for taking the risk to catch the murderer and were happy that I was fine. It all felt weird to me, but at least I wasn't being bullied for looking out of place.
Racism didn't seem to be a big problem in Arcane Star, but I didn't know if that was the case everywhere. This world did have slavery, but it was a pretty inclusive one. Only the natives of wild continents had it worse than the others, being used as an expendable workforce.
My stomach twisted because I knew well how it would end once these continents became colonized, Earth's history taught me a lot. In this world, however, the situation wasn't parallel to the one from Earth's past. Existence of magic was what kept the self-proclaimed civilizations from conquering the wild continents.
While muskets and other primitive gunpowder-based weapons existed, magic-powered ones were the majority. Of course, this was the same for the wildlings whose shamans also wielded powerful magic. Nec told me that they were no primitives, instead, their culture was just incompatible with the rest of the world. And like this, the two continents existed in relative peace if not for some rare skirmishes from the 'civilized' nations.
Getting a hold my wandering thoughts, I glanced up and smirked at the familiar bridge and the building it led to. Some girls were already looking at me, but none of them were the ones I wanted to see.
Growing excited, I rushed across the bridge. It was time for a little surprise.