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A note from dotturndot

You know, I no understand what active and passive voice mean, on the surface level of things. If I may use a metaphor (since I'm an artist), I feel like it's similar to the concept of hard and soft edges when painting. It's basic stuff but-- to really have this understanding of active and passive voice help in my writing, I have just to pay attention to it until it becomes subconscious.

Once they entered, the first thing Ruth did was ask Curtis about what happened.

"I turned the library into an ice palace," Feeling like joking a little, "And turned everyone into statues. I don't mean literal statues but... something like incapacitating them in ice."

"And then?"

"I also used a spell called {Bloodlust}. And that was most probably how you fainted," Curtis sighed.

"That sounds... quite ridiculous?" Ruth couldn't help but believe a stupidly cheat brother created a spell to scare people. "You said something about killing right? What happened after I lost consciousness?"

"I didn't really kill— I just blew the library up in ice," Curtis pulled over a straw post, which had amassed numerous blade cuts. Tia had used this one recently.

"Who were those people?"

"Thugs? They were the ones who harassed the princess— " Curtis wondered when he would finally get used to calling Louise by her name, "—Louise and Ellis the other day."

"What?"

"Ahh... I forgot to tell you about that..." Curtis hadn't told Ruth about it, hadn't he?

"It must be about the new pillar."

"You knew?"

"I remember what they said back then, " Referring to that moment when Curtis burned a hole into the map, "I think my memories are back, a bit."

"If you're fine, then I'm relieved," Curtis exhaled.

Ruth sat on the bench.

"Then you're not hurt anywhere right?" Ruth hit on something crucial.

"I'm not hurt," Curtis walked over and placed the Maverick Spellbook on the empty side of the bench where Ruth sat. "I'm just tired, for the most part," Curtis then took along Wisteria. The straw post being positioned in the middle of the training room.

He held the sword in hand, took a few steps back, asserting distance a little between him and his target. Taking a deep breath, the mana crystals started dazzling at his necklace.

"Let's try the {Sub-wind magic} enchantment first," Knowing he had to move his body, Curtis felt reluctant. But this shouldn't take too much energy, just a few test to check the sword's efficacy.

{Sub-wind magic: Convergent Gale}

An arc was drawn in front, the fusion crystal flickered, the red crystal following suite.

A gust that could be felt from 20 meters away. The straw post shook violently, it didn't topple as it was supported by a heavy metal base. Yet, from just a sweep of a bade, it nearly fell over.

"Right."

'Magic Sword. It's actually a magic sword!'

Ruth was watching on the sidelines with her eyes shining.

'No wait, that isn't the important thing here!'

"Big brother," Ruth felt a wave of worry brush past. She just remembered something about what Curtis had said, and if it was true, then—

Ruth got up to help Curtis, but he shook his head.

"You should rest," Ruth said, looking troubled. "You're experiencing mana exertion aren't you?"

"Until I finish the tests," Curtis lifted Wisteria after jabbing it into the floor. The blade seemed durable enough; the tip didn't distortion in shape.

"Then, could I do it instead?"

"I don't think you would know how it works," Curtis looked at Ruth a little funny, "It ok Ruth, I'm fine. I'll go on a mana diet after this, but this sword for Ellis had to be done first."

Ruth didn't know how to respond to that. Mana diet? A new vocabulary?

Curtis moved his hand to caress her hair. "Thank you."

Ruth sighed. "How about I check your Spellbook then?"

Curtis nodded.

The fusion crystal glinted, with the next awkward forward swipe.

{Sub-wind magic: Air blade}

The straw post was sliced into two.

'Has adequate control. It didn't slice the wall behind. The magic can be controlled to alter its form mid-way. It's a success!'

{Sub wind magic} was no different from an all-purpose wind spell. {Air blades} and {Convergence Gust} weren't only the spells limited to this variable transcription. Other wind-related magic could be cast if Ellis practised enough. This was very close to being a Spellbook for non-magic talent users, giving Ellis a lot of options to choose from. Technically speaking, she would now be becoming a mage.

It wasn't merely an act of flipping a toggle switch for the spell anymore, but, an act of actually casting it.

Next, Curtis tested the {Sharpness} enchant, an improved version. He held the sword close the (replaced) straw post and passed the blade over swiftly. As guessed, it was sliced in half, soft as butter, even though Curtis didn't put much force into his wrist.

He shuddered, thinking that this had to be a little too much. The chances Ellis' weapon slicing through brick or iron walls could now become reality.

Curtis proceeded with the {Bluntness} enchant, contrary to the {Sharpness} enchant. Starting the swing with a strong horizontal momentum, he smashed the sword into the (replaced again) straw post. The post remained in one piece, but it bobbled wildly before it fell to the ground. A shallow but wide diameter dent could be seen at the place of impact, barely visible.

With this, Ellis wouldn't need to worry about actually killing someone, which was a big deal considering the staggering number of deaths caused by friendly fights each year. In a sense, she wouldn't need to hold back in fights anyone.

While Curtis continued tweaking and testing Wisteria, Ruth held the Maverick Spellbook, playing around with improvised spells. To her surprise, the Spellbook made her casting uncomfortably smooth. It only took a little effort to reach the threshold of evocation, and with the red crystal as an amplifier, she could imagine the crazy things Curtis could achieve with this.

Despite the surprise, Ruth only hoped that the next few days would pass peacefully, allowing Curtis to recover.

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Ellis dipped her hands under flowing water, forming a bowl with both hands she flushed the water up to her face. Water falling down her face, the fringes of her hair dripping wet. She raised her head and look herself in the mirror.

Her face was red, and it wouldn't go away in another hour or so. She wasn't embarrassed or anything—it was because she had properly drunk too much alcohol. She wasn't drunk; her ruddy face was just a side-effect, a sign that she should stop drinking. Any more and she would become drunk.

'Mana exertion.'

Ellis still had that phrase in her mind. It was something Curtis emphasized in the past.

"...did Curtis ever tell you that he wasn't from this world."

Ellis remembered Will's face when he said that. It wasn't a joke, it was a serious question.

She realized that there were many things about Curtis she didn't know. Being together for so long, she thought she would know at least know a thing or two about his past but— she never questioned about it did she?

"Losing his memories sounds more practical than having his memories sealed. Ellis, do you know what happened to Curtis while he was up here?"

'Up here?'

Louise didn't give any response to that. Which meant that she already knew what Will meant.

There was this one time where Curtis became absent from school for half a year.

When Ellis asked about it, Ruth told her that Curtis was suffering an illness. So sever, he was bedridden for that entire period. Could it be that?

"Trauma, that has to be the main cause."

Trauma. Past memories. Disease. A prodigy. Mana emaciation.

Ellis splashed water onto her face again.

'Will looked troubled when I told him what I knew.'

'After that, he told me to forget about it.'

Which made Ellis question.

Who was Curtis?

The distance between them seemed to only grow further and further apart. More and more of what she knew about Curtis wasn't correct at all. In fact, it sometimes contradicted what she knew.

Curtis had also been strangely distant lately. Was he going to just, drift away someday?

'Such a thing wasn't uncommon, right? In love, that is.'

After debating about in her mind, Ellis finally left the washroom with the dress Louise borrowed her.

Ellis had changed her outfit to a casual one-piece collared blue blouse and a simple knee-length skirt in dark brown. Her hair was let loose, her braid now undone. She remembered that she rarely wore gaudy accessories around her hair because of how uncomfortable it was. Having finally taken it off was enlightening.

She made a turn at the corridor. Tilting her head in surprise when she saw Ruth and Will holding a conversation with one another outside her (and Curtis') room.

"Ruth," Ellis went up and gave her a hug, "Are you ok?"

"Yes, I'm fine," Ruth looked at Will with a please-don't-mind-this kind of look.

Will didn't know how to help Ruth who was struggling.

He shrugged. "I'll hold this," and helped to hold onto the dress Ellis folded. Which—gave Ellis an extra hand to squeeze Ruth even tighter.

It was at this moment Louise opened the door of the room.

'How did she get inside?'

Ellis pulled away from Ruth and wondered such.

Louise noticed Ellis and Ruth, beckoning them over.

Will passed the dress to Louise.

"What's this?" Louise felt that there was a hard object inside one of the pockets. Most of Louise's dresses had pockets. To Louise, a pocket absent-dress just wouldn't do. Since her clothes were custom-tailored for her preferences, all of them had to at least have one or two compartments to keep small items. Could be for pilfering.

When the item was taken out from the pocket, Louise's mouth expanded with air. To the point where she looked as if she was choking— and it burst.

"So this was where it went!" she laughed out loud, clutching to her stomach.

Will covered for her by using a concealment barrier.

"Uh.." Ruth didn't quite understand the significance of that tiny object though.

Ellis' already red face flushed in a brighter red.

A fork.

It was the baby fork Ellis said she wouldn't take.

She got drunk?!

Curtis peeked out the corridor and looked at Louise, then at the fork, then at Ellis. Replying with a what-in-the-world kind of look.

Ellis, no longer minding the embarrassment, threw herself at Curtis the moment she saw him.

Curtis received the hug and his expression changed to one of confusion. He looked at Louise who was wiping her tears from laughter.

"Curtis— I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Are you ok? Are you.." Ellis held Curtis tightly, tears condensing in her eyes.

"I'm fine," Curtis returned the hug. Her scent filled his nose.

Ellis nodded. Tears now falling.

Had she known about Curtis falling into mana exertion, she would have made the decision to cancel her jaunt with Louise instead.

"Sorry for worrying you," maybe Curtis shouldn't have told Will— Actually, he didn't even tell Will about his mana emaciation issue explicitly. Will probably just said it without really thinking all too much about it.

"Your mana?" Ellis tried to say.

"It'll take a while for it to recover," Curtis said frankly. "How's your trip?"

Ellis shook her head, "It was decent. But I'm more worried about you," Ellis pulled away to look at Curtis.

Louise who felt that she was ruining the mood tried to find an excuse to leave, "I apologize for interrupting but I will be heading back first. There will be a dinner tonight I have to attend," It wasn't a fake excuse, so there really wasn't that much of 'finding' going on in her head.

"Then you better get going. Thank you for today Louise," Curtis held Ellis' hand while saying that. After that, he turned to Will, "You too, Will, thank you," it was a little complicated but Curtis knew Will played a part in helping.

Will glanced at him with an odd smile.

'You know it feels weird to be given thanks from someone like you right?' Will retorted secretly.

Leaving, Ellis, Ruth and Curtis were left to discuss what they would eat for dinner.

"Did you drink too much?" Curtis narrowed his eyes at Ellis whose face didn't seem to recover from redness.

She made a hiccup.

Ruth and Curtis didn't know how to respond to that. She wasn't drunk, at least.

What about the fork?!

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A note from dotturndot

I'm an artist! I've mentioned it a bunch already but-- it's @dotturndot on Instagram. Cover art done by me wink* , and I think it looks unsatisfactory... I may need to illustrate a new one soon..


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dotturndot

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