Kelp said his thanks, turned around and returned to the living room. On the sofa, he tried processing everything that had happened. On the outside, he looked calm, inside however, many emotions were churning.
Thankfulness, because his father had recovered; Admiration, because Ruth was no different than Curtis, a mage that broke all common sense; Frustration, because Ruth regarded her incredible magic as 'shoddy work'.
Kelp remembered her words, "be patient". He thought he finally understood the deeper meaning behind it. Kelp imagined the countless hours Ruth spent to master a single spell.
To quicken the pace of progress was great, in hindsight, however, that would lead to stress, frustration and perhaps, ineffective practice.
Take Cordelia for an example, she was someone who'd practised magic at a leisurely pace. So as long as she didn't give up, she would undoubtedly become an excellent mage in the future.
No matter how far or fast one's progress was-- if one gave up, it amounted to nothing.
This was worse than those who chose never to give up, those who chose to be patient and enjoy themselves through the path they tread.
'Ruth is a saint'
Kelp couldn't help but smile.
"Kelp, where did the girl go?" Winster, being supported by his wife, Adrienne asked.
"She left?! Can you not be more considerate? Why couldn't you have her stay for a while? Did you think chasing her out after doing such a service is acceptable? We haven't even repaid her for her help. She would think that we are a disrespectful family. I told you so many times before that we have to respect those who help us.." Dahlia yelled on and on and...
Kelp replied with a frown. He knew that retorting wouldn't go any good. There was nothing to gain.
"Dad, keep what she did a secret, that's all she wanted," Kelp spoke as he got up from the couch, retreating to his room.
Kelp let out a sigh of frustration, he opened his spellbook. His hand propped to the table, supporting his head, he decided that this time, he would take care of his expectations when it came to progress.
Most important of all— never give up.
"Ellis, what's wrong?" Ruth tugged at her.
Ellis had a dilapidated look masked by a bitter smile. There was also the lethargic resistance Ruth felt from her hand.
"I'm fine," Ellis shook her head. Ruth had no idea what she meant by that gesture.
They made their way downhill, travelling down the sloped pavement made from gravel. In the district where Kelp stayed, dainty stores could be found. Some selling household necessities, others overflowing with decorations for the upcoming festive season. The office of operation for carpenters and handymen represented by the large robust building was just to the right of them. The establishment towered the rest of the buildings, it had a single large golden gate at the entrance. The district was also a place where hawker stores lined the street, food vendors clustered in eateries.
"Ellis, do you want to eat here?" Whatever it was, Ruth knew that she needed to pry open Ellis' heart before she could enjoy strolling around the place.
"It doesn't matter. Right?"
Something was wrong.
Ruth chose an open-air eatery that had a lot of people around. This would be the first time they came to this spot to eat. The dusty fans above spun with creaking sounds, dark oak tables with a canister of grounded sugar placed on top and the chairs replaced by wooden stools. Compared to Croquel, this place had twice the number of item choices present, drink-wise and food-wise. Ruth thought she should bring Curtis here next time.
"One bottle of beer."
"Cancel that order. Ellis, get something else."
"..." Ellis sat quietly.
The waiter made an awkward expression, seeing as Ruth was younger than Ellis. It was uncanny.
The eatery comprised of many smaller stores that operated individually. A variety of food types were sold, skewered fish, grilled oyster, sautéed clam, sweet pastries, seaweed stew with breadsticks, salted vegetable fish--
This was what people would refer to as hawker culture. Food vendors would pay monthly rental fees to operate their stalls while drinks were managed by the eatery themselves.
"What happened?" Ruth knew this woman needed to fish this woman out of the sky. After asking for the sixth time, Ruth got another irrelevant response.
"Nothing," Ellis' belied.
"It's Curtis isn't it?" even though Ruth herself was a woman, she thought she wasn't the kind to understand the thoughts of other women— let alone her thoughts, at times.
"Curtis is fine, he probably doesn't need me anymore."
"Ok....and?" rather than correct her, Ruth's main objective was to allow Ellis to bawl out her inner thoughts. The biggest mistake Ruth could make now would be to yell at Ellis that she was wrong. Of course, she was wrong-- emotions never drew a line between truth and lies.
"He doesn't need a useless person like me, I can't do anything at all," Ellis fumed.
"I'm sure he doesn't think of you like that.."
In the beginning, Ruth thought that Ellis' inferiority complex was the reason— mainly because she was still fretting over the fact that she couldn't protect Curtis.
As her words progressed, Ellis' complaints started to shift towards the differences between the two talents, magic talent and spirit talent. She lamented the fact that she was from the latter.
Ellis felt useless, all she could do was stand and wait. She thought even Ruth could help another person. The ability to use magic was such a blessing.
The situation was the same every time Ellis went on a voyage with Curtis. All she thought she could do was to be supported from behind. She wasn't strong enough to stand by herself.
As ridiculous as her claims sounded, Ruth knew it was just her pent up feelings, lack thereof the pretence of logic. It was a known fact in society that people with magic talents were looked down upon. Not to the degree of discrimination but because the difficulty in mastering magic outweighed the instant benefits one would attain from having the spirit talent. People with magic talent would experience fewer benefits unless the person were to put forth an effort to grasp the true essence of the talent— creation.
Ruth attributed Ellis' feelings to repercussions of recent events and— the normal emotional mood swings due to hormonal changes. Most of what Ellis said made no sense and had to not be taken seriously. Emotions were not bound by rational thoughts after all.
Ellis shrunk away, nibbling on the sandwich Ruth ordered with tears in her eyes.
Ruth took out the handkerchief from her pocket and wiped the tears off her face.
With his shoulders against the wall, Wu RenLu eavesdropped on the conversation. However noisy the eatery was, he could still hear the two girls' voices. Wind magic.
'So he's here after all.'
As the conversion between the two girls ended, the last thing he heard was the stifling sound of tears.
"Here you go."
"Thank you," Ren replied to the amiable lady who passed him a paper bag with fours sachets of food. A meal of rice and seafood— sky-food. Ren thought that that term suited it more. In this world, he found perplexing the fact that aquatic animals came from the sky and not the sea. It had been almost two months since he arrived. He had yet to accustom himself to the reciprocal creature hierarchy.
After paying the lady, he left the eatery, making a mental note to remember the two girl's face.
With his free hand, he pushed his spectacle up to his nose.
He finally found a hint.
'First prince of the Shun family, Curtis Shun. I hope this isn't just a lucky coincidence.'