Aisha had not met Alice for that long, and yet she is still willing to go to such lengths to aid her. This wasn’t some selfless desire to help others, but rather because the current Alice reminded Aisha strongly of her past, of which she wasn’t very proud. As she handed bottle after bottle of alcohol to every table she walked past, all with a sweet smile on her face, she couldn’t help but spare a few glances over at Alice.
‘That girl… she’s not doing too good… I can see the frown on her face grow deeper and deeper. Sigh, to be young and angsty again… just like when I was younger…’
In the past, she had been a very unreasonable person, constantly making loud ruckuses and noisy complaints about something. She was pretty much a spitting image of Alice right now, hence the strange familiarity she felt whenever she looked at Alice. It was like looking in the mirror.
Though it could be simply chalked up to teenage angst, there was a reason for this irritating behavior of hers, and she assumed that it had to be the same for Alice. It was all because of her abilities
It was common knowledge that fire was one of, if not the most, common type of magic among all the elements in the entirety of Eden. Though there was no explanation as to why, many believed that it was due to the fourth calamity, which had scorched the whole world, leaving behind gargantuan amounts of fire-type mana in its wake.
The environment definitely plays a huge factor in deciding a person’s abilities or ‘blessings’ when born. A person born in a hot desert was more likely to obtain fire magic than a person born in the harsh winter. Of course, this isn’t a definite thing, and people could still be born with magic that didn’t suit the environment, as rare as it was.
This was why Alice had been so upset to find out that her abilities were related to fire magic. Not only was it the most common type of magic found in the entirety of Eden, but it also wasn’t the most common type of magic to be born with in Dragonsteel city. That’s right, she drew the short end of the stick during birth.
Although steel magic was the most commonly found in Dragonsteel, it could be used for offense, defense, and even in construction. This makes it far better and more versatile than fire magic, which is hyper-offensive with not much else to offer. She would have chosen steel magic over fire magic any day, but nooo… She just had to be born with this element.
To make it all worse, her ability was very dysfunctional. Whenever she activates her ability, large amounts of flames will surround her body, effectively giving her an offensive shield. That was well and all, but the problem comes when you realize that clothes are really flammable. Every time, without fail, her clothes will be incinerated, and although the fire didn’t hurt her, one could imagine just how embarrassing it must have been.
It was even worse when she was younger since she had very little control over her ability then. Young Aisha was constantly laughed at for her strangely dysfunctional ability, by her friends, her parents, and even the brave adventurers which she had admired since she was young. It was no wonder she grew up to be so irritable.
Even now, her ability still burned off her clothes. She could have gotten fire-proof clothing, but one has to know that only dragon hide or scales could withstand just how strong her flames could go. She couldn’t wear armor with high melting points either, as it could gain heat extremely quickly. This was why she called her ability dysfunctional, she couldn’t get hurt by the heat of her own flames, but once that heat is transferred to another object, it could hurt her. Just how was that fair?
As dragon hide was incredibly rare and expensive, she only managed to get her hands on enough material to craft herself some usable clothing, which amounted to a bikini. Many had assumed that she was doing it to attract attention, and they weren’t completely wrong, but there was more to her immodest clothing.
Her life had been very miserable, but one person helped her through this mess. In the dark and gloomy rut that she had found herself in, a bright light shone through in the form of bright yellow eyes. Morgan, the one-and-only adventurer that she ever truly looked up to.
It was all thanks to the A-ranked adventurer that she became who she was today. Morgan had never laughed at her dysfunctional ability and even extended a helping hand. Although her ability was still a mess today, she had learned many other skills to make up for it. That was how she eventually became capable enough to become the leader of a B-ranked adventuring party.
Aisha wanted to be there for Alice while she is still going through that phase, just like how Morgan had done so for her. That was why she couldn’t abandon her, no matter what, for it would feel like abandoning herself in the past. Taking a deep breath, she walked towards the troubled-looking Alice.
“Take it! S-such fine alcohol and we’re giving it to you all for free! Don’t you think that not accepting it is a little rude?”
“Uh sorry, but I don’t dri—”
“Just take it!”
After shoving another tall bottle of amber liquid into a very reluctant adventurer, Alice grumpily moved on to the next. She had only been doing this for only a short while now yet it was already enough for her to get fed up.
She looked over at Lizza and Aisha, who dealt with the whole thing in a calm and collected manner. Even Bell, who she recently found out had come from a rural village, was slowly but surely getting used to it.
‘How could this be? How can they stand it? All these flirting and cat callings… it’s unbearable.’
Yet again, the only solace she had was that Cathy wasn’t here to suffer through this. She supposed that she could only grit her teeth and move on, the situation would end eventually. Sighing, she stretched her hands and yawned, until a tap on her shoulder alerted her to Aisha’s presence. She gave the skimpily-dressed party leader a questioning look, which was responded with a hand gesture. It signaled for them to move somewhere else.
And so, they left the rest of the work to Bell, Lizza, and Louis, and moved inside the large central tent which was now devoid of anybody else, making it the perfect place to talk. Alice didn’t know what brought this about and was growing a little worried.
‘It can’t be about my attitude, can it…? There’s not much I can do about that…'
Aisha looked out of the tent to make sure nobody was eavesdropping, before closing the flap and turning to face Alice. Alice wasn’t sure how useful that would be, considering how Ezekiel’s ability allows him to listen in on conversations from a long distance away, but maybe he had the dignity to not pry into private conversations. She had always voiced her opinions about privacy to him, but he assured her that he left them alone most of the time.
Not very reassuring at all.
“You’re looking a little nervous there back when we were serving drinks. Is there something troubling you? Perhaps I can help.” Aisha presented her offer together with a bright smile.
“Wha… What brought this on so suddenly?”
“Don’t worry! I’m not trying to reprimand you or anything’,” Aisha scratched her head. “It’s just… it must be frustrating, right?
“…Oh! Yes, it’s incredibly frustrating! I cannot for the life of me get used to dealing with these adventurers! I wonder how you and Lizza do it.” Alice vented her night’s frustrations.
“You just need to get used to it, no way getting around that. But wait, that wasn’t what I was talking about, I’m referring to your ability, blessing, powers, whatever you call it.”
“My blessing? What about it?”
A serious glint began to shine within Aisha’s crimson eyes, and she stared directly into the different shade of crimson that was Alice’s eyes. Alice could see the pain, sympathy, and empathy in those eyes of hers, and it got her confused about what she was about to do.
“You should know what I’m talking about. Your ability… you’re not too happy about it, right? I get it, really I do.”
Alice was surprised. “I’m plenty happy about my ability. What are you talking about?”
“What I’m talking about…? Come on, we’re both users of the same element, no need for secrets between us. You can tell me. Really!”
“I really do not know what you’re talking about.”
Alice stared incredulously at Aisha, who had been spouting all sorts of nonsense ever since bringing her here. She could tell that she was expecting something of her, but whatever it was, she didn’t have it.
“O-okay fine. Maybe you don’t realize it now, but you will eventually. The fire element is the worst out of all the elements, and the most common!”
“And?!” There was a slight agitation in her voice now. “It’s been hard, hasn’t it? We’ve both been dealt a bad hand in life, and we don’t have a say in it! But don’t worry, since I’ve been through the same thing, I can help you!”
Then it finally clicked for Alice.
“I see what all this was about. There’s nothing to help me with. If that’s all, I’m leaving. The sooner I get this mission over with, the sooner I get to meet Cathy.” With a humph, Alice left the tent, leaving Aisha standing wide-eyed in stunned silence.
It didn’t take her long to recover from her shock, and she left the tent in pursuit of Alice. It didn’t take long before Aisha caught up to Alice, who wasn’t stopping in her tracks, nor did she spare a glance at the flustered Aisha.
“Alice! Wait! What do you mean?”
“There’s nothing to talk about. I do not need help! At all!”
Aisha stopped in her tracks and covered her mouth. Soon after, she began laughing, and Alice stopped as well.
“Haha! You don’t realize it now, but there’s a limit to our abilities. But that’s why we have others! Being an adventurer doesn’t mean going solo, that’s what parties are for! To make up for our glaring weaknesses and bolster our strengths! That’s why your mannerisms and tone need to change. Being snappy in the long run won’t do you any good.”
Alice gave Aisha an annoyed look. She had already denied her help twice, but she still kept coming back for more.
‘Cathy always said that I have to tell the person off at least thrice before resorting to force. Unfortunately, I’m not that patient, so you’ll have to forgive me, Cathy. I doubt I can physically force a B-ranked adventurer to stop, so guess I’ll just have to use the cold, hard truth.’
“Look. All this time, I think you’ve been mistaken about something.” Alice looked up to the sea of stars in the sky as she said this. “I don’t think my ability is bad. I don’t think the fire element is bad, either.”
“Well, you might think so now, but what about—”
“Listen!” Alice interrupted Aisha before she could finish her sentence. “I don’t think it’s bad, and I’ll never think so in the future. You think fire is the worst element? Look at Louis! He’s literally a fish out of water! My point is, no element is better than the other. It all depends on how it is used”
“Well, what about your personality? I was just like you, you know? When I finally realized how dysfunctional my ability is, I became a person a lot like you right now. Only after I met Kayden’s master and learned many different things did I finally learn to love myself and change.”
Alice smirked, which irritated Aisha to no end. She had just been trying to help, but now she was giving her attitude. Maybe she should have listened to Kayden’s advice on leaving her alone.
“I’ll tell you this. The reason you needed to change was that your ability was dysfunctional and that you needed to make up for your shortcomings with other skillsets, right? Well, I’m different. You won’t find the angsty, helpless girl you are looking for within me, because I have no shortcomings! I’m a genius! And from the Haliburn family, no less! I don’t need to change!”
Alice walked up to Aisha and gave her shoulder a few pats.
“Thank you! You know, I’ve been feeling a little down lately, and I didn’t know why. After talking to you, I’ve finally figured it out,” She clenched her fist and gave a heartfelt shout, “It’s all because of Kayden! Him and his stupid three blessings! It made me of all people doubt myself! How preposterous! I’m from the Haliburn family, the nobles with the strongest fire magic in the entirety of Galio!”
And with that, she kicked a pebble on the ground before strutting off.
Aisha was shocked into silence once more, and couldn’t comprehend what she just heard.
‘I feel like I’ve just completely wasted my time doing all of this…'
It was at this moment that off in the distance, a small voice sounded inside Alice’s head.
“Er... Alice! A-are you guys done? We’re ready to destroy the barrier! We just need the loud distraction from your group!”
“Haha! It’s Cathy! Just in time!” Alice waved over at Aisha, who still looked stupefied from before. “Come on! I’ll give you a taste of just how powerful fire magic can be!”