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A note from dotturndot

About hit the climax soon (2 more ch-ts). And then the exposition after the climax would freaking suck... i re-read it and it's so boring...

100 degrees day, a little past noon, Curtis and Ruth were now seated in front of a long wooden table. Books scattered across the tabletop with few fusion crystals lying here and there. The sun beaming from above, bathing the library in glorious daylight.

Usually, Curtis would accompany Ruth to the library during the evenings. So coming in the afternoon felt really different from their norm. Also contributing to this off-feeling was Ellis being absent, she was busying herself with Louise.

The library was comparably more crowded compared to the day before. The mages were accompanied by their respective professors. Some classes held in small groups of three, others in larger packs of 10. It was the common weekend library mood.

Previously, Hermit Hie left without duelling Tia, he was in a rush. The reason for being at Sid's forge was to take his equipment back from servicing. Actually, not just his, but his entire party's equipment. A dual dagger, a medium-size claymore, a large halberd made of rare onyx-like material, a rapier sharpened to its limit similar to Ellis' Wisteria, and a peculiar long sword. Curtis felt uneasy when he saw the rapier, he couldn't figure out why.

He had obtained this six-sense skill somehow after being hit in the head by Tia. It definitely needed magic to keep it active, but the consumption of mana was so low, it was almost negligible. Though, he still didn't want it consumed his internal mana. Thus, he decided to stow away this passive skill until needed.

"Curtis, I remembered that I need to tell you something. It's about the pillar," Ruth said in a low voice while scanning the area with her eyes. They were seated at one of the corner seats, with nobody close to their vicinity. The possibility for anyone to eavesdrop was low.

"Did Dean say something about it?"

"Yes, and he told me to have you be at the guild before 140 degrees day, it's about registering your name in an official seal," Ruth was playing around with water, arranging in various geometrical shapes in the air, "I forgot to remind you about it yesterday. Though, I think it should be fine with only your name registered— for now, since Ellis won't come back so early."

"Oh...I should have thought about that.." Curtis forgot that Ellis was also involved in it.

A few years ago, when a new piece of land was found, it became the impetus for a large social massacre. Learning from this lesson, the king had imposed new, stricter measures to prevent future disputes when a new discovery of land was made.

Those who found new land had to report to the guild. The rewards would be given to the guild directly. Distribution of the rewards to the founder was done by the guild themselves. Of course, it will be under the observation of legal rights. So the guild wouldn't be able to cheat everything.

Curtis thought the main reason for such a roundabout way of rewarding the founder was to encourage the guilds to creatively encourage adventurers to report their findings, whatever they were. The basis of this hypothesis was owed to the fact that a rumour circulating around saying the reward given to the founder and guild will be done separately. So, nobody knew which one was the truth. In a sense, the confusion only benefitted both sides.

"Besides this, I think I'm starting to get a hang of compounding more than three elements," Ruth was showing Curtis her magic. Like him, she had practised the many magic clauses in separate. At this point in time, she was already deft enough to be able to cast an elemental spell at the snap of her finger.

Ruth learnt magic from Curtis since 9 years ago, when she was still 7. In the beginning, she didn't really take his teachings too seriously, messing up a lot and not following the regime provided by Curtis. Though, that was a long time ago.

In a few more months, she could probably start to learn large scale magic, ones that could work in actual combat. Ruth was interested in the prospect, but she wasn't into battling, so she might opt out of using it outside its 'intended' purpose.

After completing a set of elemental magic clauses, she combined three elements to form an impromptu spell. Curtis's teaching method was a little—different from normal. Repertoires were predetermined spells that would execute a specific effect. So there was little flexibility in that. Besides clauses that allow variable execution methods, if one wanted to alter the spell, it would be up to the casters own ability. Playing the piano, it would either be adding additional notes, altering the rhythm, or changing some sections of the piece entirely to fit certain requirements.

Basically, what Ruth was doing was similar to playing the piano without a music sheet. Depending on the sound— in Ruth's case, magic fluctuations.

In this way, she could easily alter spells to suit a specific occasion. Likewise, each person would have a different style to their craft.

In her hands, Ruth held her Spellbook. A jelly looking crystalline orb, glowing in iridescent colours coalesced in the air. The three elements were: Wind, Water and Light.

{Flash Orb} Curtis used during his battle with Louise was light spell feigned as a fireball. Similarly, what Ruth had in hand was a glowing water orb.

The singular orb split into tiny dewdrops and circled around her figure. Water replacing diamonds as it danced in the air.

"Amazing," Curtis' eyes glittered as he watched the beads of light twirl about.

"There's more," Ruth wasn't able to hide her smile anymore.

Each dew started to sparkle in various shades and colours. Instead of only white, there were an array of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple— the 6 main gryostone colours. They swirled in mesmerizing patterns, forming spirals, geometric shapes, and even a three-dimensional model of Whaley.

Then, Ruth exhaled, all the water dropped to the floor, the colours regressed, the light gone.

"That's about it," Ruth looked worn out. Combining three elements, add on top an additional light distortion to altering the colour. It was an incredible effort on her part.

"I think I can already start teaching you amplification methods," Curtis laughed, collecting the water that was falling and dispersed it into the air.

"One step closer to becoming a prodigy like you," Ruth muttered randomly. In fact, Ruth was already a prodigy.

Many students and professors gazed their way. The light show performed was spectacular, and nobody knew what spell it was.

Concealment spell wasn't in effect.

Most mages that came to the library already knew Curtis and Ruth, their name had even spread to other professors of magic that didn't come to this library often. It could be said they respected Curtis because of his vast and exotic knowledge. Striking up a conversation with him was an opportunity, an opportunity to shatter all your confidence. Which was what Professor Liam did.

As to why Curtis was not pounced on to become a full-time magic researcher? That was a mystery.

Just as the gazes reached its saturation point from the afterglow, Kelp, Merlin and Cordelia who saw the lights rushed over.

"That was beautiful!" Cordelia spoke.

"That can't be Ruth can it?!" Kelp was certain it wasn't Curtis, but Ruth.

"What spell! Could I take a look at it too?" Merlin had properly misunderstood.

"I'm sorry, it's based solely on intuition, it isn't a repertoire," Curtis corrected Merlin who got the wrong idea, "And it was Ruth who did it, not me," Curtis smiled wryly.

"What!"

"Come to think of it, I don't think we've really paid attention to your growth lately," Cordelia looked at Ruth, for a moment her gaze was a fire alight, but it suddenly died down, turning into dim amber. "What a cheat—You're another prodigy!"

Ruth wasn't able to say much. She only nodded with a restrained smile.

All four of them were 16 years olds, yet one was able to actively to cast spells based solely by feeling?!

Since Ruth would normally be occupied with guild duty for the day, she and Curtis would come to practice in the late evening, that was if Curtis was around (which he usually wasn't). Else, Ruth would have Curtis write her a few keynotes to look through or give an advice or two. Ellis would also tag along, or accompany Tia if she had class, where they would have a spar with her mentors— the knight assigned to mentor Tia. Fortunately, they didn't mind.

Because of this, the trio didn't have many opportunities to really see Ruth's magic at work.

And because of this, they felt a crack in reality.

Why should they continue with their old professor if there was someone better than him?

"So how did the fire spell go?", Curtis looked at the book which Merlin was holding, the one containing the repertoire for the fire manta ray.

"I've memorized the beginning part of it, but the rest is still really messy," What coalesced in Merlin's hand were five flame balls, intermingling into a flame ribbon before forming the shape of the ray. The manta ray started flapping oddly, with some flames accidentally spewing out because of the difficult wind control, "I think I'll need a few more days."

"How.." Cordelia looked at Merlin incredulously, she had only recently attained the ability to form the shape, and it couldn't even best what Merlin achieved.

Without waiting, Kelp also attempted. The flames appeared as a ribbon at the moment it was created, skipping the shape fusion process. Flatting into a pancake, a tail stuck out from behind, then it's stinger also appeared. His clearly exceeding the details the manta ray Merlin created. For the finisher, the manta ray swayed gently, the current of the wind gently flowing. Slowly, as the amplitude increased, the wings started flapping fluidly, though a little mechanical.

"Kelp, looks like you've figured it out, good job!" Curtis was surprised to see Kelp's learning speed. Furthermore, he had altered or simplified some parts to help ease the casting.

"How.." this time, it was Merlin looking in disbelief.

"I finally understood what you mean when you said to practice it slowly, part by part. It wasn't just about getting the part right, but really understanding it. If you understand how it should be done and how it functions concerning the whole piece, then you can try to alter it a little," Kelp took inspiration from Curtis' example the day before where had the wind part simplified it into two basic streams, rather than controlling the wind as it was written. "And the point wasn't in the clause itself, but how the clause fits into the entirety of the piece," Kelp said in a somewhat serious tone, unlike his usual self.

Curtis only stared. The truth was, Curtis really meant what he said when he told them to practice slowly. There wasn't anything fancy to it. It was Kelp who sought out a deeper understanding behind it. Well, after all, each person was different. One may need to put together the same puzzle like everyone else, but each person would have different missing pieces. Looked like Kelp had just found another missing piece.

"May I try?" Ruth looked at the fire manta ray mesmerized. The one Kelp created.

"Here," Merlin was a little nervous when he set down the book on the table.

Ruth scanned the repertoire, "This is quite difficult," mumbling to herself.

Pointing a finger into the air, she followed the straight forward process stated inside the book. First the five flame balls, then the ribbon, then the form, lastly, the wind. All of this took less than 5 seconds.

Ruth was still staring at the book. One hand in the air, not even taking a glance at the manta ray that appeared flying.

While continuing its gentle movements, details of the manta ray start increasing bit by bit.

Like that, Ruth finally turned to look at her creation. A perfectly casted spell—almost. Since there wasn't such a thing that could be 'perfect' in this world.

All of a sudden.

"Curtis," Kelp couldn't hold it in any longer. His eyes were firm and deep with intent, "Let me be your disciple!" Kelp bowed and kept it that way.

"""Eh?!""" Cordelia and Merlin looked at Kelp dumbfounded. Ruth released the spell, reacting a little late.

"That," It was troubling for Curtis.

'To say that out loud....'

First of all, Kelp had yet to properly resign from his position as the disciple of his current professor. Frankly speaking, it was disrespectful to suddenly quit. Kelp's professor was one which had a good reputation and could be said as somewhat who knew magic at a profoundly deep level. Only accepting 3 disciples whereas most others would have more. He was among the few top professors around to chose from.

To accept or not to accept? It wasn't really in Curtis' ability to teach him either. He wasn't someone officially registered as a professor. Curtis was also someone who would go on a voyage, leaving for days or even weeks at a time. Although it was still possible to teach Kelp...

"I'm sorry Kelp, I don't think I can accept that," Curtis wanted to further explain the reason, but couldn't think of a proper one. So he stopped there.

"Why," Kelp faced forward.

"I just.. can't. I'll be busy going on voyaging trips and not be around most of the time."

"You could still guide me like how you .. did with Ruth right?" Kelp was shaking a little.

"I'm sorry, but it's because Ruth is my sister."

"Kelp.." Cordelia said hesitantly.

Kelp clenched his fist, "Fine, fine. Everyone is selfish, I get that, I get that," said in ire.

He stammered away, cursing unceasingly.

Cordelia chased after him. Merlin was still a little taken aback.

"Sorry," Merlin said in Kelp's stead after regaining himself. He went after Kelp.

"Curtis?"

Ruth noticed the difficult expression Curtis was making. He was contemplating something.

"It's impossible to please everyone you know?"

"You're right," Curtis responded.

"It's not your fault that Kelp got mad. I feel that he had just experienced something that caused him to act that way," Ruth made a thinking pose similar to what Curtis did, "If it were someone else, I don't think they would have the same reaction as Kelp. Depending on their situation, they would react differently, probably not getting mad."

Curtis looked toward the direction the trio disappeared to. It was to one of the isolated training rooms.

"It's not a good thing to be a people pleaser all the time. Not everyone can be satisfied, no matter how hard you try."

"How should I make up for it I wonder," Curtis looked at Ruth's worried face.

"Well.. If that's the case then, let the future decided itself?" Ruth leaned against the table, pulling her dangling stray hair back behind her ear, "The solution appears at unexpected times. Usually."

"That always happens. Thanks for the reminder," thinking back to almost every voyage he had ever experienced.

Ruth nodded awkwardly with her head stooled by her hand.

"By the way, I have a question," Curtis finally snapped out of it, pulling his Spellbook over. Turning the book on its back and opening only the back cover page, to reveal the last page. "Do you remember who wrote this?"

Ruth leaned closer. The fringes of her hair flood the table,.

"I love you?", Ruth looked at it in surprise. "How long has it been in there?"

Ruth got back into a thinking posture.

"It couldn't be Ellis," Ruth muttered to herself, "Dahlia? That couldn't be it... Who would write like that."

"Do you still remember the time we joked about it?"

"Joked about it?" Ruth dug her memory archive, seeming to reach for some scattered, lingering fragment, "How old were we back then?"

"I think it was when you were eight or nine?"

"Hmm... that was when you were ten or eleven," Ruth froze as if she realized something, "How old are you now, big brother?"

"Do you really have to ask that?" Curtis pulled a long face. He felt a little nostalgic, seeing Ruth trying to exaggerate something. "Eighteen, or seventeen, whichever."

"I think I remember something," Ruth could feel her cheeks cramping. "I also have a question I've wanted to ask you for a while now."

"Ask away,"

"Is it just me, or are you not my brother? Blood related-wise, that is..." Ruth cutely tilted her head as she said that. "An eleven-year-old shouldn't be able to combine elemental magic let alone... teach it."

Ruth wanted to add more, but..

Ruth remembered asking her mother about it, but the reply she got was: until Curtis became old enough. Then she totally forgot about the fact that Curtis, could possibly not be her real brother. She was only 8 back then.

"What?"

Oops. Maybe Ruth shouldn't have said it so insensitively. It's not like Ruth knew the truth. It was just— a possibility.

"Uh..." the more she thought about it, the more it made sense. The more it made sense, the more she felt like an idiot. Recalling all the moments she had ever called Curtis his brother when he was in fact—

A blurring figure. A knife held against Ruth's throat.

'Adopted.'

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A note from dotturndot

Cliff hanger! Surprise surprise!


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dotturndot

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