Since the magical effect had disappeared—except for the golden stardust left on each card—Odelie handed the cards to the young Crimsonmane girl.
"All right, dear Alicia! Please choose any card in front of you!"
Just before she picked up one of them, Alicia asked again, "Are you sure I just take it? I thought there had to be context or something."
"Someone’s reading her book," praised Odelie. "So, there are nine cards here. You just need to determine the context you want to know, and then draw a card. I'll help interpret the meaning of it. In this game, I only give you three divinations, so choose what you want to be foretold carefully. I suggest you don't need to find out about your later responsibilities because you've already been foretold about it and usually you won't get a much different answer. Just pick a more trivial theme. It's for fun, anyway!"
"Eh... alright. So I'm curious about... uhm...." Now that Alicia had been told to choose a divination theme, she herself had a hard time deciding what she wanted to know. Either she wanted to know too much, or her mind suddenly went blank.
"Come on, Alicia… take your pick. Besides, this prophecy won't give you any clear clues. So don't hesitate!"
“I-I… suddenly my mind went void….”
Odelie suggested, "I know! Let's choose the most common theme!"
"The most common?"
Alicia's red face appeared again. “R-r-romance?”
"Come on, that's what the girls feel the urge to find out! Who their match is, how they shall meet, when they get married!" Odelie pinched her own cheeks in exhilaration. "Everything related to romance is very interesting to discuss!"
"R-romance…. Ah dinnae ken, Odelie." Alicia did not seem ready to reveal the answer to the one million gold tokens question. One could see that from her adorable, blushing face. Her accelerated beating heart could even be heard within the girl. The only moment she was trapped in the euphoria of real-world romance was when she encountered Mars, a fellow prisoner in a magic prison. Ah, that petite, charming lad with clear eyes… his cold, white skin refreshed all eyesight. Whatever temperament he exhibited would always look dashing. Alicia did not guarantee that she would not faint the next time she saw him up close!
What about a lad like Gilmore? Alicia indeed considered the Big Yin her partner in crime, but she felt that she had not yet received a spark of amour for him. The rest were just images of the girl's lust when reading a book or witnessing dangerous pictures on the screen—the result of the trade exchanges between her and the Big Yin.
Wasting three opportunities just to find out her future soul mate was redundant. So Alicia took just one chance at it. "F-fine… just one thing. I-I want to k-know who will be my love interest, m-maybe…?"
"Marvelous!" Odelie was excited. "Very well, Miss. Make your choice."
Taking a card in the middle of an odd number of cards was believed to be beginner's luck (a mere Alicia’s assumption). Alicia pulled the card away and closed her eyes. Reading fortunes had never been so scary, let alone this embarrassing!
She dared to turn her card over. Miraculously, the originally black card was now rendered an image. Alicia stared at it. No, there was no portrait of a handsome prince with slanted eyes, a sharp nose, sexy lips, a muscular body, and riding a dragon. Such a gallant knight was not available; only a green human figure in the nude swooped down to the bottom of the black abyss, accompanied by the fallen bones. There was an inscription "Death Defier" on the underside of the card.
“My soul mate is a desperate orc performing bloody dangerous stunts?”
"What? Hey, hey, hey." Odelie immediately took the card from her hand. "I'm the astrologist, remember? Only I can read the predictions."
Alicia was dumbfounded still. Odelie briefly examined the meaning of the picture. “Your husband isn't an orc, Alicia.”
"Then what, please?"
"It could be many things. Green in a psychological sense; maybe he's an optimistic person and easily jealous. Or he's an environmentalist, or green is his favorite color. But look at the complete picture. Look at the title!" Odelie handed the card back to Alicia, "'Death Defier'! That means the man of the future loves you so much that death shall never separate both of you! He is willing to dig deep into the underworld only if it will keep him with you. You are a very lucky woman to find a loyal man, dear Alicia!”
Alicia looked at the card again carefully. "Y-you sure, Odelie?"
"I'm an astrologist and not the ‘Nostradame’ kind. Trust me."
Alicia said nothing. This time, she was gazing at her card with every intent. The green man in the nude was not as bad as she thought, apparently. The act of digging into the realm of the grave might be too extreme, but Alicia could not help to feel it had a romantic side to it. She nodded with a small smile on her face.
"Odelie, have you ever predicted yourself about your romance?" she asked.
"No, Alicia. An astrologist can't read for oneself. That is the rule," Odelie answered. "But another astrologist who is a friend once read it to me. And I got the 'Crimson Pegasus'!"
"What does it mean?"
"My friend read it as one as mighty and beautiful as a pegasus who would bow down to its rider at one try—which is me!"
"Yeah, right? I tried to match who it was! Maybe that person was a valkyrie in Vanir, or a brown-skinned man from Ubar that I once fell in love with, or someone from the Crimsonmane House! I'm still looking for my ideal figure!"
Alicia seemed to understand why she had been teased constantly since she met Odelie. Another theory also came to mind that perhaps another Crimsonmane colleague—her own mother—had also been pounced on by this lady! But Alicia got a naked green-skinned man, so she could breathe a sigh of relief!
Odelie immediately exclaimed, "Round two, dear Alica! What do you want to know? This beautiful astrologist will tell you!"
Alicia thought for a moment. Before long, she spoke up, "I wonder about my future as a mage!"
"Hm... Can you tell me in detail?"
"I don't know, maybe after this big prophecy of mine is fulfilled…. If the world survives, I just wonder if I can still become a mage who shares a positive influence throughout the realm!"
"Okay, please choose your card."
Alicia drew a second card. This time, the picture looked more proper than the first card. But at the same time, the girl had difficulty finding meaning according to the context of the question. The picture on display was a baby standing upright, with a serious demeanor. Beside him was a bonfire, and below him was written, “Son of Man”. There was really nothing that could be interpreted from this simple yet absurd illustration.
Surprisingly, Odelie, as an astrologist, was doubtful about the same picture as well.
"This one is a little hard to decipher. Also, it seems The Existence hasn't given me much of a hint," said the blonde astrologist. "Your future as a mage shall be revealed after you meet this 'Son of Man'."
Alicia frowned. "Wait a minute! Which son of man should I meet? There are like… billions of babies on this earth!"
"I don't think you need to worry, Alicia. Because you will recognize him yourself later. And this human child will have a potent influence on you. That's why your card doesn't show a very specific image."
The baby in the picture did look stern, but there was no anger hidden in it. The expression on his face is… rather peaceful. Staring directly into the girl's eyes, as if waiting to be discovered. Once, Alicia peeked at Orb, and the orb reacted nothing to the human child in the card.
Before receiving the last prophecy, Alicia was curious about Odelie's mystical art. She then opened a new page in her notebook. "Odelie," she said, "is the mystical art of Astrology only a matter of fortune-telling? Do they have some sort of magic for offense and defense and but?"
Odelie simply replied, "Yes, and yes."
"Yes, and yes?"
Odelie then provided another basic understanding of the mystic art that she fathomed, while Alicia recorded everything in writing. "By connecting with The Existence, The Existence shall tell us what misfortune, curse, or protection that could be given to a person."
The astrologist took a glass mug and then picked up some unused cards from the deck. Taking a deep breath, the woman closed her eyes again, then opened them with a more resolute look.
"The simplest magic comes from cards. Check this out, Alicia!" Odelie drew a card, revealing symbols of rock and four signal waves coming from four directions. A great vibration hit the mug all of a sudden, shattering it to pieces!
"'Flanked by the Waves'," continued Odelie. "When I show this card in front of the mug then the mug is destined to receive an energy rush from all directions!"
Alicia was already amazed at how Odelie's astrological magic worked even if it was just breaking a cheap glass. "Odelie, Odelie! So the person destined for a certain magic will immediately feel its effects? Then what about your mana, will it drain? Och, och, show me healing magic or something!"
"Whoa, one at a time, little Crimsonmane," Odelie laughed. "Firstly, it depends on the target whose destiny is shown. If we take this card as an example, an enemy will definitely be flanked by an energy wave. But the enemy can still dodge or parry the attack, depending on their abilities. Second, my mana continues to drain as long as I related to The Existence. If my mana runs out, The Existence won't give me a choice of spells. And as another demonstration…."
Odelie took another unused card. This time the appeared image was read, "The Constructor", and sure enough, all the shards moved backward and then reunited to form a whole cup. There were no peculiar hues, nor visible waves, just dozens of floating shards like turning back in time!
Nothing pleased Alicia more than watching a glass shatter and put back together at the command of a card. She jumped up and down, like a child seeing a magician at a birthday party. Adorable weird girl.
Her hands continued to swipe the paper with her pen while her eyes remained fixed on Odelie and the mug earlier. "Outstanding! Absolute Belter! Pure Brilliant!" Alicia cheered. "But a question! How do you know which spell to put on the glass? Are spells provided through fate random, and an astrologist just makes use of what is provided?"
"Not really. I was destined to use a certain magic and at the same time did not abandon my free will to choose that spell. When with The Existence, The Existence had already determined what I would use, and when the time came, I consciously wanted a predetermined spell by fate."
From this explanation, Alicia was tilting her head. "I don't get it. So you're kind of predicting what magic you want to use and fate grants it? I thought we shouldn't do divination for ourselves. Then how come The Existence determines destiny and humans live it by free will? Doesn't that make us the same as puppets?"
"All these statements are untrue, dear. One keyword, dear Alicia: Predestination. By understanding the concept of predestination, you are one step further in connecting with The Existence and understanding the path of destiny. I do not blame you if you don't understand by now. It’s a complicated matter. Even if you do understand, you might not necessarily be able to teach it to others! But since you are interested, you can spend some time looking into the magic library. It would take a long time to understand, but it is possible."
"So it seems. And here I thought the knowledge from Mama's library was sufficient to understand ins and outs of mystic arts of the world of thaumaturgy."
"Trust me, Alicia. What we learn in our lifetime is incomparable to the knowledge of the universe!" Odelie's response to the girl's naïve statement.
After a while, Odelie continued her game, "Okay, last round! What's your deepest wish?"
Alicia was taking her time again just in case her mind had caught up with something. And sure enough, there was one chirping inside her head. But this was an unusual request. Something that a woman like her should not say. Maybe all the talk about predictions and destiny made her suddenly curious.
"What do you think if I want to know how I will die?"