We didn’t go far. After all, we wanted to be seen by the others, so we could react if anything happened. Of course, when Bill told me how to use a sword and shield properly, it was nothing new. I’ve read all about that before, and I possibly might have known more than Bill did. But in the end, it was only a matter of practice, which I obviously lacked. And we’re talking about missing the countless hours of practice. So, the swinging we did now felt like nothing. And I could see that even Bill noticed that.
It was very frustrating.
“Alright,” Bill said after a while, sheathing his own sword. “Let’s stop this.”
“What?” I said, pushing the sword into the dirt and leaning on the handle. I could feel how my body was slightly shivering from the excessive training. But I needed to try harder. I needed more.
“Can you use magic?” Bill asked, looking at me.
“I don’t know?” I said.
“You should talk to Alice. She might help. And if you can’t use any magic, you should give up.”
Harsh. It was a bit hilarious that it was Bill who told me something that I’ve known for a long time.
“Why?” I said.
Bill looked at me, thinking about how to tell me the following lines. I knew what was coming. “Even the best swordmen need magic to become something great. They fuse their magic into their blade or shield to make themselves more powerful. If you can’t do that, no matter how much you’ll train, you can only kill goblins as the very best. Unless...” There was silence. Occasional few distant birds broke it for mere seconds.
“...unless?” I muttered.
“...unless you’re a rich fuck and you can buy a powerful magic weapon. If you can do that, you’ll be also fine. They can carry your ass pretty well. Of course, it means that if you ever lose your blade or shield, you’re useless, and you will die. You’ll probably never make it to the platinum either.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Before platinum, your rankings depend on how well you do with quests and everything else. But to get to the platinum, they actually test you. If you’re entirely dependent on your magical weapons, you won’t make it.” Bill released a long sigh. “For now, I don’t want to drain any more of your energy. We need you later.”
I looked at him and began laughing. He was surprised by my reaction. “Was my sword fighting that bad?”
Bill shook his head. “Not at all. I’m even impressed, I expected a lot less. But what we are doing here is pointless.” I was surprised. I didn’t expect him to compliment me.
I finally raised my sword, sheathing it as well. It was nice to finally own a weapon that I could sheathe without any effort. “Why can’t you teach me yourself how to infuse magic into the sword?” I asked.
Bill chuckled. “Because to do that, you first need to be able to use magic. Plus, I can’t do it myself, yet. I don’t mean that I can’t do it at all… it’s just that I haven’t done it successfully, not yet. I’m still learning,” he mumbled.
I grinned. “You’re making it sound like it's a really hard thing to do,” I said.
Bill looked at me, face more serious than ever before. “Well. There’s around sixty percent chance that you’re without magic. And then twenty percent that you have so little that it’s almost pointless.”
“That small? No wonder there aren’t that many magic users,” I muttered. “But it makes sense. No wonder so many adventurers depend on magic swords.”
He nodded. “Not everyone can become that great, even if they want to. Most were born lucky. There are few exceptions, of course. But I wouldn’t count on it.”
“Yet we have so few goblin slayers. All of those not-so-great adventurers could still put themselves into a good use,” I muttered, thinking.
Bill shook his head. “You haven’t seen the devastation when one discovers that they’ll never be good enough. The moment they’ll realize they never earn a name. Their life will be one risk after another, depending entirely on their magical gear. It’s better to abandon that foolish dream and try your luck elsewhere, don’t you think? Anywhere, really.” As he spoke, every word was intense. Almost as…
“You lied, didn’t you?” I said, looking at him. “You’re magicless. Yet here you are. You refuse to give up...”
Bill stared at me, breathing heavily, gasping for words.
“I’m sorry. But I think-”
“You think that I should give up as well?” Bill interrupted me, staring at me.
“You think I should be like others? Do you think I should be like those villagers? They are weak! They can’t even protect their own village against goblins. Goblins!” Bill said, hissing. He had a really hard time not shouting. Even Arryn and Alice were looking at us, worryingly. “You think that-”
“Shut the fuck up!” I stage whispered. “I was going to say you should never give up. That you should keep doing what you love. That you should keep trying and finding ways how you can be the adventurer. Even if it means going from one magical item to another. It’s your story. And nobody… n o b o d y… should tell you otherwise. Get the strongest legendary magical weapons if you have to. Becoming the best shouldn’t be easy!”
Look who’s talking, I thought
Bill smirked. “You think that I can become a great adventurer? Even if…”
There was a moment of silence. He stared at my smiling face. “Yes,” I said. “Adventuring isn’t all about fighting. There’s more than swords and shields. There are many things that only you can do while others cannot. There are many adventurers in Kirkwall, yet you are here, helping this village.”
Bill frowned, staring at his own hands. They were dirty, even slightly bloody from that one goblin. But they were his hands. He decided how to move them.
“You know,” I muttered, picking up my shield that was lying on the ground. “The new hero became the hero without ever being an adventurer.” Bill looked up at me.
“So I’ve heard,” Bill whispered.
I took one step closer to Bill, patting his shoulder. “He created his own path to the top, ignoring all the systems humans have created,” I continued.
“I always wondered why,” Bill said.
I smirked. “You should get good and ask him.”
“Prove myself before asking the question, huh?” Bill said, smiling. “I like that.”
“Come,” I waved my hand, walking back towards Arryn and Alice. “I need to check this magic thing out you were talking about.”
Bill gave me a sharp nod and followed. He seemed slightly inspired. And we needed that.
“I hope you didn’t dire yourself out before the main event,” Arryn said, looking at us, slightly squinting her eyes.
“Relax. We had merely a warm-up,” Bill said, finally sitting next to Arryn and searching for some food from the bag they had gotten from the tavern owner. “Oh my,” he suddenly muttered.
“What?” Arryn said, looking at Bill.
“The owner… there’s some quality wine in the bag!”
Arryn hit Bill’s side softly. “Now is no time for drinking, you idiot,” she said.
“What? I never said I was going to drink it now. We just have to be gentle with the bag to not break it!”
I chuckled. “We will probably leave our stuff behind anyway. Anything we don’t need, we’ll leave behind. Except for a tiny bit of food. Just in case,” I said, looking at Bill. It was funny to see almost as his hopes and dreams were scattering in front of my eyes. “We won’t die. Relax. It won’t be your last meal… or drink.”
Bill sighed. “But just one sip? The night is cold?”
Alice had been grinning the entire time. “C-come on. O-one sip won’t hurt? I-I’d take one as well.”
“Well, there is a lot of time before we’re going,” Arryn said after a short pause, giving a slight cough.
They all now looked at me, as I was their father who had to give them a blessing. Or perhaps it was supposed to be an unanimous vote?
“No pressure, right? Sure,” I said after a short pause. “Maybe it gives us a little bit of courage as well.” To be fair, I also wanted a sip of it. “But just a sip!”
We all took the larger wine bottle, taking sips one by one. And we all were impressed by how good quality it was. It made me wonder why the dwarf had given it to us in the first place. Maybe just for that moment. Or maybe if we had died and the goblins had searched our bodies, he could say that we were traders passing by.
But for now, none of it mattered. At least there was something to look forward to, once we were successful and back.
“Alice,” I said as we all have had our sip.
“I heard from Bill that you could tell me if I can use magic? And maybe even what magic?”
Alice gave a sharp stare towards Bill, immediately.
“Y-you know that you can literally go to any guild and ask it for free?” she said.
I knew it very well. But I couldn’t do it. They were all watching me. And every move like that could prove that I was a fake hero. It could make my year into a miserable year. And I needed people to believe in this lie. I needed them to work with me.
So this moment might be the only chance to learn about my magic early on. Yes, they could also spread that I’m the fake hero, but right now I have an excuse. I could tell them it was a simple examination if they were capable enough to go after this danger. I also had Erica, hopefully, ready to have my back.
“Yes,” I said, looking at Alice. “But I’d want to find out before I might die. And it’s interesting. Come on! Please?”
Alice's eyebrows rose. “W-why do you think I can even-”
“Because you told me,” Bill interfered, looking at her and gazing at me. “You told me that you found out your magical essence and everything before you even became an adventurer. And all by yourself.” It was obvious that Alice wasn’t that impressed as she kept staring at Bill. Maybe it was supposed to be a secret? “I’m sorry, alright? If you can’t or don’t have materials, or just don’t want to, just say no.”
Alice released a sigh. “I can do it. But not here. And not with you two,” she hissed.
“She’s really angry,” Bill whispered to me. “It better be worth it!”
I laughed. “Sure. I don’t mind. I’ll protect you!”
“I-I doubt that.” Alice sighed, stood up and stretched herself. “C-come,” she said with her ordinary voice, walking away. I followed.
“Are you sure?” Arryn asked as we had taken barely a few steps.
“We’ll be fine,” I said, raising my hand as a goodbye. To be fair, I was half lying. Goblins could be everywhere, but I just had to take the risk to find out about my magical… stuff.
It didn’t take long until we stopped in front of a small pool of water. I was even surprised that such pool existed.
“S-so. T-there’s a reason why I wanted to do it alone with you,” Alice said, looking at me. She was acting slightly differently, almost as whatever she was going to say was truly hard or embarrassing. Maybe it was that slight blush on her cheeks that had slowly appeared once more. Or maybe it was her body language. She did blush a lot, though.
“So?” I muttered.
“W-well. W-we both need to get naked and then go into that pool,” she said, looking at me and the pool.
“W-what? R-really?” I muttered, looking at her, eyes slightly widened. To be honest, I was more excited than anything else.
“Y-yes,” she said.
“A-and then?” I asked.
Alice blushed even more. “W-we have to kiss and… W-we’ll get to it when the time comes.”
She removed her backpack and placed it against a nearby rock. She removed her hood and began to lift her clothes up slightly, stopping midway. “I-it’s embarrassing if you’re staring at me like that. C-can you turn around and do it too?”
“O-of-course!” I said, gulping. I turned a sharp half circle, heart racing. I was thinking about what was about to happen. It was going to be my first kiss. I removed my clothes, slowly, one by one. First the armor, then the top, finally my pants. Only when I had my underpants left, I heard something.
At first, I thought I was imagining this, but as I heard a second quiet giggle, I realized what was going on.
I turned around, hands crossed, looking at still fully clothed Alice, sitting on a rock, staring at me.
“Oops,” she muttered, not hiding her giggle anymore.
“You… Wow. I didn’t see that coming. Especially from you.”
“I’m just teasing you,” she said, trying to make a slightly lower pitched sound. Her one leg was placed over the other. She felt pretty comfortable - unlike me, almost naked.
“I guess I’m happy that you didn’t do that in front of the other two,” I said, eyes slightly squinted, hands still crossed. “Or maybe they had enough heart to stop you.”
“T-they wouldn’t. T-trust me. P-plus, I’m not that mean,” she said, grinning. “B-but I couldn’t resist that one. T-tell me, was it the blushing?”
I looked at her, stunned. “You... I’m speechless.” There was a moment of silence. “It definitely was blushing.”
She kept grinning. “Y-you ain’t the first one who thinks I’m just an innocent always blushing girl who can do a bit of magic. B-but the fact that you’re trying to be nice and still haven’t asked about my stutter is cute,” she said, looking at me. I was surprised. She found me cute? How did we reverse the situation like that?
“Can I clothe myself?” I asked.
“Y-yes. Y-you may.”
Immediately, I began putting my pants on. It wasn’t that I was embarrassed, but it was pretty cold outside. Especially since night-time was creeping closer.
“So. Why are you stuttering?” I asked the big question.
“I-It’s like blushing - I can’t help it, or not fully. I-it kind of only happens at the beginning of sentences. Y-you may have noticed that.”
I looked at her, keeping my mouth shut. I would’ve normally told her it was fine, or that I found parts of it cute. But the last thing she needed was getting compliments after she had pranked me. “Have you tried not doing it?” I asked the big annoying question.
“Yes and no,” she said without stuttering. “If I try really hard and focus, I can. But… it’s really exhausting.”
“You ain’t convinced?” she asked.
“I didn’t…” I barely began before noticing her stare.
“It’s as if drunk was trying really hard to look sober. And he wasn’t drunk enough to not be able to pretend, I guess?” Alice said.
“I… see. An interesting example,” I said, finally putting my armor back on.
She smirked. “I-it’s fine.”
“Anyway, was the magic thing all a lie?” I asked, looking at her.
“N-no,” she said, shaking her head. “W-we really needed to come here for that.”
She began searching for something from her bag, finally removing a smaller bowl from it. She walked to the nearby pool and filled it with water. She then stepped back to the very rock she had sat on, placing the bowl of water on it at the center. Finally, she walked to the nearby small tree, taking a few inch-sized leaves from it.
As she reached back to the bowl, she placed one of the leaves at the very center of the bowl. She then took a small pouch from her bag, taking a few white-looking crystal pieces from it and throwing them into the water. They looked like rock salt. But the way how fast it dissolved suggested otherwise.
“W-we are lucky. N-no wind,” she said, sighing.
I stepped closer to the bowl, looking at it and in it. I was excited. I never knew anything of it. Even the adventure books didn’t tell of it. If there were other ways, they were lies thought for entertainment. But normally, it was always the adventurer guild’s method, not this.
“Is it like a secret art or something?” I finally asked, not being able to hold back my excitement and curiosity.
“B-basically. P-please don’t tell anyone. I-It's a family secret, I guess?”
She sighed, looked at the leaf, and finally looked at me.
“Y-you need to push your magic essence in that leaf. O-once you do that, it’ll reveal everything.”
I looked at her, confused. “How?”
“I-if you have magical essence, you’ll manage,” Alice said, slightly annoyed how I was wasting time.
“Alice,” I said, also annoyed. “I’ve never done this before. How-”
“Just freaking do it!” Alice hissed.
“Fine, fine~!” I said, frowning. I took my finger and placed it gently on the leaf. I sighed and closed my eyes. I didn’t feel anything. There was no magical surge or anything else like that. I felt the leaf against my fingertip, and that’s all. All that I could really do was to scream in my own mind for it to work. All I could do was to focus on that touch against the leaf.
After a while, I opened my eyes, annoyed. I removed my finger and looked at the leaf and the water. “Great,” I said. “Am I magicless?” I was obviously annoyed. But Alice was just smiling. “What?”
“L-look again,” she said.
I leaned forward, looking at the leaf, carefully. Something was different. I got even closer - like really close - looking at it really carefully.
“Oh, shit,” I said as I noticed it. “It’s glowing.”
Alice nodded. “Y-yes,” she said. “A-and it’s the first.”
“It’s the first?”.
“N-nobody has ever registered an element like that,” she said. “A-at least nobody known or official. Y-you should definitely go to the guild and let them evaluate you properly. Y-you should register the element and reap the rewards.”
I grinned. “So what is it?”
Alice sighed. “T-the best I can say is… a light element?”
“A light element?” I poked at the leaf a few more times to see if it was still working. As I looked at Alice, she seemed a bit worried. “What?”
“I-It’s just that… it’s very faint. W-which means one of the two things,” she said, looking at me seriously.
“Go on,” I said after a short pause.
“E-either you somehow managed to barely insert any magical essence in it, or… your pool or magical essence is very weak.”
I chucked. Of course it was. The endless amount of luck I carry always shows. “And what do you think?” I asked.
“I-It’s always better to assume the later,” she said.
She sighed, looked around once to make sure that nobody was peeking, and removed my leaf, putting a new one in its place. She placed her finger on top of the leaf. Immediately, the whole bowl’s water - together with the leaf - froze up, and the leaf began to release a dark shadow as steam.
I realized what she meant. My light was barely visible, probably even pathetic compared to that. “I see,” I said, sighing.
“B-but don’t give up. Y-you can still use it. M-maybe as a sword power? I-It's pretty unexplored land. Y-you don’t need much essence to boost your weapon!”
“Thank you, Alice,” I muttered, walking next to her. I took hold of her hand - which surprised her slightly - and opened it, examining the leaf she was holding. It was still emitting some light, making her skin slightly green and yellow. It was a very special leaf for me. It was the leaf that told me that I had magic in me.
“H-Hiro?” Alice muttered.
I smirked. I was still the hero, and I had to keep up my light. Fitting power for who I am. I closed her hand gently, my own two hands around her fist. “Keep it. I bet I have very powerful magic,” I said, smiling. Alice blushed, slightly. Mostly because I was still holding onto her hand. “You’ll see.” As I let her hand go, I walked towards the camp. “Come on. We still need to work on the plan.”
Alice’s eyes followed my steps for a few moments. She didn’t come to me immediately. After all, she had to put the bowl back into her backpack. But her stare that followed me was different. Or at least I felt like it was different as I looked over my shoulder. “You coming?”
A slight smile appeared at the edge of her mouth. “I’ll wait,” she muttered. She emptied the bowl from the frozen water, putting it back into her backpack, and running next to me.
“I-I guess with your power, we are both now slightly special,” she said.
“Well, we’re now quite opposites. Darkness and light,” I said, grinning.
“Or perhaps we can’t exist without the other. Isn’t that romantic?”
“Want me to drop my pants again?”
“Noooo,” she said, giggling.
We both continued walking back towards the other two.
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- Matthew E. Damson
I'm someone whose pen-name is Matthew E. Damson. Some others know me as Elven. I'm also known as elf, elfie, elves, pointy ears, and some more. To be honest, I have no idea why they call me other names, but they create nicknames, not me.
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