I messed up.
It was careless of me to think that no one would be able to tell. Most people wouldn’t, but there are always exceptions. That’s right, he is in charge of the magic department, of course he would be able to tell.
It’s not so bad though. I wanted to stand out, and now that the head teacher is keeping an eye on me, I definitely do. I’m just hoping not to attract too much attention, to the point where the big shots would notice me. Just enough so that I would be selected as a participant for the upcoming competition, and that’s it. I need to be forgettable.
“You are incredible!” Vivian exulted. I could almost see some stars in her eyes.
“Keep your voice down,” I advised. “We’re not alone.”
After the class ended, I joined Vivian in the refectory for lunch break. It’s been five minutes since we’ve sat down at the table, but she still hasn’t started eating. Instead, she keeps talking about what just happened.
“The advanced class,” she dreamed. “Do you even realize? You just arrived and you’re already joining Mustache’s classes! You are so awesome!”
I could feel my cheeks turning red as she kept showering me compliments.
“But… didn’t you find it weird for him to choose me instead of Lucius?” I inquired.
The young girl tilted her head, her eyes wandering.
“To be honest, I did at first, just a little bit,” she admitted. “But since it’s Mustache, he probably has his reasons.”
Lost in her own enthusiasm, Vivian finally started eating her lunch. I’ve already noticed it last time, but she seems to have a big appetite. This time again she took a big serving. Well, she’s a growing girl, I guess? It was somewhat pleasing to see her eat to her heart content. No useless etiquette, just a girl and her meal. Our last meal together didn’t go so well and she couldn’t finish her dinner, so hopefully, this time it’ll all go well.
But of course not…
“And have you seen Lucius’ face? That was hilarious!”
As Vivian burst out laughing, remembering the scene, someone kicked the bench she was sitting on, choking her laughter at once. When she turned around, she gasped in surprise.
“Glad to hear I amused you,” Lucius snarled with a threatening look.
Vivian immediately lowered her gaze, her face flushing in embarrassment. The boy however, didn’t pay any more attention to her than this. He immediately shifted his furious gaze on me.
“I want a rematch,” he demanded.
I blinked several times at him.
“A rematch?” I frowned. “What for?”
Lucius’ eyelids twitched as he shot me a deadly glare. Suddenly, he slammed the palm of his hand down on the table, causing the plates to jolt on the impact.
“Don’t play dumb!” He bellowed. “I know you cheated!”
What the hell? That’s ridiculous.
“You stole my place!” He continued. “I should be the one to go to the advanced classes, not you! So I demand a rematch!”
Well, I can see where he is coming from, but that’s really not my problem. In fact, I even let him win to save his face, isn’t that enough?
“Not interested,” I said as I took a sip in my cup of water.
The boy glared at me for a few seconds. Then a smirk formed on his lips.
“I thought you’d say that.”
What is he thinking?
Lucius straightened his back and took a deep breath, puffing out his chest.
“My name is Lucius Bain!” He suddenly shouted, attracting the attention of everyone around us. “By the old laws of this school, I hereby challenge you to a duel!”
What? That’s it?
I frowned a little confused at the boy who was grinning confidently.
And then I sighed.
“I’ll wait for you next- Wait what?!”
His face washed blank in surprise, Lucius looked at me with wild eyes.
“I said I refuse,” I repeated with the same disinterested voice.
“You can’t refuse a duel!” He exclaimed, outraged.
“Of course I can. I just did.”
“Do you have no honor?!”
“Nope, I don’t.”
Bewildered, Lucius stayed still for a few seconds. He had clearly not expected me to decline, not in front of this many witnesses. But I couldn’t care less for my reputation. Thanks to my brother, it was already bad anyway. So I’m not going to bother myself with him. The chatters of the surrounding people brought back the frozen Lucius to his senses.
“Aren’t you just admitting in front of all those people that you cheated?” He finally got a hold of himself.
I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was losing confidence. So I simply tilted my head at his accusations.
“Yes you did!” Lucius denounced, as he pointed at me. “That incantation of yours…!”
“You mean ‘Abracadabra’?”
“It doesn’t even mean anything!”
Well, he does have a point, but that’s not going to help him. After all, there is no way for him to check.
“Yes it does,” I lied. “It means ‘Fireball’ in an ancient language.”
The boy flinched at my casual explanation as the people around him were starting to grin out of amusement. I flatly refused his duel and now, his groundless accusations were making a fool out of him. He knew it. He clenched his fists, slowly losing patience.
“E-Even if that was true,” he grunted. “What kind of chant is that short?”
“Why not? Such a simple spell as casting a fireball shouldn’t have a long chant to begin with.”
For the boy, it was straight provocation. I was basically telling him that he was the abnormal one, for being unable to cast a simple fireball without a long chant. Still, he couldn’t find anything to retort so he simply took it in, his face reddening in anger. Around us, those who had listened to our conversation mocked the poor boy. Vivian was no exception. She tried to hide a chuckle with her hand, but it didn’t escape Lucius’ eyes.
“What are you laughing at?!” He vented his frustration on her. “You think this is funny?”
Startled, Vivian averted her gaze, but her smile was not subsiding.
“Well, kind of,” she admitted in a low voice, loud enough for Lucius to hear.
The boy’s eyelid twitched as the veins in his temples were ready to pop out. He couldn’t tolerate the humiliation any longer, or at least, not coming from Vivian.
“That’s rich coming from you, dead-weight!” Lucius scoffed with a mocking grin.
Vivian’s expression immediately hardened at his words. So far, I noticed that the nickname ‘dead-weight’ was something she was especially sensitive about.
“You can’t even cast a spell properly!” The boy continued.
Vivian’s eyebrows furrowed, so I glared at him. He was taking it out on her purposely. However, before I could say anything to him, Vivian spoke first.
“At least I can admit defeat,” she retorted dryly.
Well, I didn’t expect that. And neither did Lucius.
“What did you say?” The startled boy asked.
“You heard me.”
Lucius ground his teeth.
“I didn’t lose!” He shot.
“You were being dominated during the whole exercise,” Vivian stated with a sharp tone, slowly losing patience in her turn. “And Mr Glenn chose her, not you.”
“That’s because she cheated!”
Annoyed, the young girl got up from her seat to face Lucius.
“No she didn’t! We were all here, we saw what happened, you lost!”
The boy ground his teeth, unsure what to respond. I must say I’m surprised as well. I didn’t expect Vivian to suddenly take my defense. Giving a quick glance around him, Lucius noticed the crowd of students that had gathered around us, alerted by the sudden commotion. If he didn’t want to lose face, he knew he couldn’t back down.
“Who are you to butt in anyway? My business is with her! What are you, her lover?” He barked in a mocking tone in an attempt to humiliate her.
But Vivian didn’t react to his provocation.
“I’m her friend!” She responded.
“Yeah, right!” Lucius sneered. “I bet you forced your friendship because she’s new! Let me guess, you got kicked out again of your group, right? And now you’re leeching off of her, following her around like a puppy!”
Actually, that’s pretty much the contrary.
As Vivian glared at him with wide red-rimmed eyes, the boy smirked.
“What? It’s the truth!” He scoffed, provoking her even further. “Dead-weight!”
But not only did Lucius not expect Vivian to retort, he also not expected her to retort the way she did. Neither did I, to be honest.
“Crybaby!” The young girl spat.
It was probably on the spur of the moment, but that one word was enough to send Lucius into shock. Only for a while, though, as fires of fury and indignation began smoldering in his eyes.
“Say what?!” He raged.
“We all saw you crying like a little girl when you failed your incantation!” Vivian shamelessly denounced out loud. “How old are you? Even my ten years old sister doesn’t cry when she gets hit with a belt!”
The boy wrinkled his nose at her accusation, as the wide judgmental stares of the others around did not go unnoticed by him. He took a menacing stance.
“Are you picking a fight with me?!”
But Vivian stood her ground.
“What if I am?!”
Lucius took a step forward, until there was only a few centimeters left separating them. He glared right through her, but that wasn’t enough to intimidate Vivian as she glared right back at him.
“Then I challenge you to a duel,” the boy declared, without breaking the eye-contact. “I’ll make you swallow back your words. You’re going to crawl on the ground.”
Vivian did not back down.
“Come at me, I’m waiting for you!”
Well, that escalated quickly.
After their little clash ended, Lucius immediately stormed out of the refectory, leaving us behind. And now I’m dealing with a completely depressed Vivian.
It didn’t take long for her to cool down, and once all the tension relieved, she immediately realized the situation she got herself into. The lunch break was now long over and the refectory was mostly empty, yet Vivian won’t budge at all. After falling into a temporary state of panic, she switched to some kind of resignation mode. Her head down on the table, she kept muttering things in a barely audible voice.
“I am so dead…”
Seeing her in this state, I really felt guilty. What happened kind of was my fault. She took my defense and ended up accepting Lucius’ challenge instead of me in the heat of the moment. I wanted to comfort her somehow but I wasn’t sure what to say.
“I am so f****** dead,” Vivian repeated. “I can’t believe I provoked him.”
“S-sorry,” I awkwardly apologized.
The young girl looked up at me. Reading the guilt on my face, she gave me a half smile.
“It’s not your fault,” she tried to cheer me up. “I’ve always been like this. My mom always told me that my biggest flaw was being too hot blooded.”
Yeah, I would’ve never guessed, but now I can totally see it.
“She also told me to fix it if I didn’t want it to be the end of me,” she swallowed an ironic chortle. “She was so damn right.”
Vivian let out another long sigh.
“Although it’s been short, I’ve enjoyed your company until now,” she eventually mumbled. “Thank you for being my friend.”
Perplexed, I frowned at her words.
“What are you saying?” I asked. “You’re talking as if you’re going somewhere.”
The young girl smiled bitterly.
“At the end of the week, I’m going to get my ass kicked by Lucius in front of everyone,” she explained. “Then I’ll be demoted.”
My brows furrowed even further at her answer.
“Why would you be demoted? It’s just a duel.”
Vivian moaned in complain.
“You don’t understand,” she grumbled. “I already have bad results from the previous group tests, so if on top of that, I lose a duel, there is no doubt I’ll be demoted next month.”
The young girl grabbed her head and shook it in denial. After a few seconds, she stopped upon realizing something.
“And if this reaches my brother’s ears…” She muttered in a worried voice. “If Fabio ever hears about it, he’ll definitely report it to our father! And father will pull me out of the school!”
“Alright, alright,” I gesture her to calm down. “You can’t be sure about that.”
“Lynett,” Vivian looked at me with teary eyes. “The only reason my father sent me to this school is because I had potential in magic. If he ever found out I got demoted after all this time, he’ll pull me out of without a second thought. And then…”
She marked a pause, her expression darkening.
“And then he’ll sell me off to some old pervert,” she cringed. “I’ve seen how my father treats his concubines, I don’t want to live a life like that!!”
“O-Okay, calm down!” I tried to reason her. “You’re his daughter, he wouldn’t do that!”
Vivian stopped and looked at me. A weak smile played on her lips.
“I appreciate your optimism, Lynett, but you don’t know my father,” she sighed. “I’m a girl, and the child of a maid on top of that. My only value in his eyes is to be married off.”
Well, considering the duke’s reputation, I don’t doubt it. Seeing the now completely downhearted Vivian really saddened me. I wanted to cheer her up somehow.
“You know, you just have to win!” I declared. “That way, you won’t be demoted and you’ll even teach a lesson to Lucius!”
The young girl squinted at my statement. It was obvious, yet, she was clearly not even considering it.
“You want me to win against Lucius?”
Vivian blinked at me several times before bursting out in laughter. But there was no amusement in her laugh. Simply pain and resignation.
“Lynett,” she called me out once her laughter had subsided. “Didn’t you hear him? I can’t even cast a spell.”
“I’m sure you can,” I retorted. “Otherwise, you wouldn’t be in Mrs. Borge’s class.”
The young girl sighed. “You don’t understand, I- I think I’ll just show you.”
Redressing herself, Vivian picked up a glass of water and put it right in front of her. She gave me a meaningful look before focusing all her attention on it. For a moment, nothing happened. She simply looked like a girl with a weird fascination for the cup of glass. However, after a while, I could feel her mana clustering in front of her.
“Goddess of the Sea, this is my devotion, this is my plea,” she started chanting. “Grant me the strength to defeat what is harmful to me, and in return I honor thee. Let the sacred water flow, 『Water Blast』!”
Her incantation over, the glass of water started shaking uncontrollably. And after a few seconds, it exploded, the liquid splashing all over the table.
Uhm? I don’t see what the problem is? She just casted a spell properly, didn’t she? Moreover, her control was pretty good. No, actually, I’d even say it was excellent. Learning how to control mana was the main issue of all mages, yet her control was almost flawless. Coming from a student, that was quite unexpected. So what is she talking about?
Vivian was looking at me, waiting for a reaction. I tilted my head in confusion.
“Well, you can cast a spell after all!”
A weak smile appeared on her face.
“But I can’t do it again,” she explained, her voice full of frustration.
Vivian carefully picked up a shattered piece of glass and inspected it for a few seconds.
“The water’s gone,” she noted.
I frowned at her random comment.
“Well, you kind of broke that glass, so it splashed everywhere, yeah.”
“Without water, I can’t cast another spell,” she then finally clarified.
As I tilted my head at her confession, Vivian sank deeper in her seat, slouching down on the table.
“My magic has a weakness,” she explained with a long sigh. “It is limited to manipulating water from already existing sources but it can’t create it. That’s why most of the time I’m unable to cast a spell.”
Mmh? Unable to create it but manipulating from already existing sources? That’s sounds like… Uh, wait. Could it be…? That would explain her insane mana control…!
Suddenly coming to a realization, my expression changed. I think Vivian misread it as disappointment as she apologized right after, but it was far from it.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to hide it from you… I would completely understand I you didn’t want to team up with me anym-”
“That’s awesome!” I interrupted her, suddenly getting up from my seat and grabbing her hands. Startled, the young girl almost fell over.
“You are awesome!” I repeated.
Vivian blinked at me confusedly several times.
“You have no idea how much of a genius you actually are!” I told her with much enthusiasm.
But the poor girl couldn’t understand my sudden high spirits. She squinted her eyes.
“Are you… mocking me?” She asked doubtful.
A huge grin spread on my face.
“Come with me.”
Without really leaving her the choice, I dragged Vivian out of the refectory. I guided her outside, in a remote place of the courtyard with no one to bother us. As I finally stopped, the young girl spoke up.
“What are we doing here?” She inquired with a hint of concern in her voice.
I let go of her hand and faced her, full of expectations.
“I’m going to show you incredible you are!” I declared with assurance.
Vivian frowned, still convinced that I was teasing her.
“There is no need for you to do that,” she fretted. “I understand my own limitations perfectly. You saw it, didn’t you? I can’t create magic.”
A large grin spread on my face.
“I saw it,” I confirmed. “And there is nothing wrong with you. Let’s just say that you have a condition.”
Vivian’s expression collapsed at my words. Did she misunderstand me?
“A condition…” She repeated, somewhat lethargic. “As I thought, I’m cursed, aren’t I?”
“No, no, no,” I immediately denied, trying to clarify the situation. “Rather than a curse, it’s a [Skill].”
The young girl’s eyes widened at my explanation.
It took me a while to notice their existence as they do not appear directly in the status window, but they are indeed present. I randomly discovered that fact a few years ago. Back then, Aoban was still living with us in the Whiteheart estate. He received the visits of private tutors everyday and as I came to watch one of his sword practice one time, his tutor said something that caught my attention.
“If you want to master the skill [Whirlwind], you’re going to have to put forth more efforts than that.”
‘Skill’. Maybe it’s because it sounded very RPG-like or maybe it’s my [Administrator] instincts, but that one word really captured all my interest. And as the word ‘Skill’ kept crossing my mind while watching the two of them sparring, it appeared. The skills window.
Later, I discovered that skills are actually much more present than I expected. Most of them are everyday-life skills, such as [Cooking] or [Smithing]. But some of them are much rarer. And if I’m not mistaken, Vivian has a skill that is especially rare and precious.
Let’s check it out, shall we?[Skills Menu].
< [Forgery] lv1, [Herbalism] lv3, [Hijack] lv1 >
Well… Let’s not ask how she got that [Forgery] skill. What really interests me is…
Ufufu… I wasn’t wrong.[Hijack].
That’s a goddamn OP skill she got here, and she’s not even aware of it.
“A [Skill] you say,” Vivian finally managed to articulate, the initial shock subsiding. “There is no way I would have a skill, I have never…”
Her voice died down as she didn’t finish her sentence, but I could tell what she was thinking.
Besides the racial [Skills] or class [Skills], most [Skills] needed to be learned. In some rare cases however, newborns could be granted a [Skill] upon birth. It was completely random. Since [Hijack] is a high-level skill, I’m guessing that’s Vivian’s case. It was an advanced version of the skill [Mana Control] so it’s no wonder her control is so good. Normally, it would take several decades for a mage to master this skill. That girl has no idea how lucky she is. A dead-weight? Yeah, right. She just doesn’t know how to use it properly. And since she doesn’t know, I’ll teach her.
“Listen Vivian, your mana is special,” I explained. “It works like a parasite.”
The young girl cringed upon hearing the world ‘parasite’. It’s not the most enticing image, but at least, it’s the easiest way to explain.
“That’s why you need an external source of water,” I continued. “Instead of generating magic directly, your mana needs a host. It takes over and seizes control of the mana in already existing sources of water.”
Vivian stared blankly at me for a few seconds. Then, she finally spoke up.
“But if that’s the case, isn’t it a huge disadvantage?”
I clicked my tongue several times, shaking my index finger in front of her.
“Wrong!” I retorted. “Quite the contrary!”
“I’m a water mage! Without a source of water, I can’t-”
“Look around you, Vivian!” I exclaimed, spreading my arms. “There is water everywhere! In the trees, in the air, even in the ground! Just because you can’t see it, it doesn’t mean there isn’t any!”
Erthia is a world of life, and life can’t exist without water. This is why anywhere she goes, she is almost sure to find some water. It would have been more troublesome if her attribute was Fire, but fortunately it’s not.
“I can’t possibly control water that I can’t even see,” she mumbled unconfidently.
“It’s going to need some practicing, but by the end of the week, you’ll be able to do it!” I assured her.
The young girl stayed still for a while, seemingly unconvinced. Then, she displayed a weak smile.
“Even if that’s the case, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m a water mage,” she said, dejected. “How do you expect me to win against Lucius with water magic?”
There seems to be a misconception about water magic. While at a high level, all attributes are equally powerful, it’s true that at a low level, they don’t always have the same worth. When it comes to combat magic, the Water attribute is the least appreciated. You can’t exactly defeat your enemies by throwing some water at them after all. And although water does have some healing attributes, it’s not as efficient as Light magic. Which is why water mages aren’t really popular. However, Vivian’s case is completely different since she has the skill [Hijack]. After all, [Hijack] works best with the Water or Air attributes. This is perfect. [Hijack] and water. This is going to be a deadly combo.
“It’s exactly because you’re a water mage that you will be able to win,” I revealed with a huge grin. “First, you need to learn how to take control of invisible sources of water. If you manage to do that, then you’ll never lose against Lucius.”
Vivian frowned in confusion. She didn’t fully believe me, but her eyes were betraying her interest.
“How?” She asked.
The edge of my eyes cracked as my grin spread wider.
“Vivian. Did you know that the human body is sixty percent of water?”
At first, the young girl didn’t understand my point. She tilted her head, pondering for a few moments, before her face distorted in horror.
That’s right. The human body is mostly made up of water. The heart, the brain, the skin, the muscles… Even the bones.
“You can’t possibly be thinking…!”
“Of course I am!” I avowed proudly. “If you learn how to control the water contained in living things, you’ll be invincible! Because it won’t matter who your enemy is! Whether they’re a human, a beastman or a demon. Whether they’re a warrior or a mage. Whether they’re a prince, or even a king! It won’t matter how many layers of armor they’re wearing, since you’ll be attacking from the inside! Whether you choose to explode their blood vessels, crush their lungs or…” I marked a pause, remembering something. “Or even break every single one of their bones! You’ll bring them to their knees within five seconds, they won’t even understand what’s happening!”
Ah~ Good old memories!
Vivian didn’t seem to share my enthusiasm.
“No, that’s smart!” I corrected. “Don’t you want to win?”
“Don’t you want to teach Lucius a lesson? Don’t you want to show that asshole of a brother you have, what you’re capable of?”
Alright, I got her. She didn’t utter a word, but her expression was speaking for herself. Her fists clenched in frustration, her eyes were burning with determination.
“Then I’ll teach you!” I declared. “Trust me, I’ll make you rise to the top.”
That’s right. This is my gift as a friend. My reward for her, for standing up for me.
Besides, the first trials of the tournament are group tests. I can’t possibly pass by myself. Well, actually, I probably could but if possible, I’d like to avoid that. I don’t want all eyes on me. So if I’m going to participate in the competition, I need my teammates to be strong as well.
Starting today, I’m creating a monster!
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