XII.2 (RE)

Everything was in a confusing, distant haze the moment Merlin regained consciousness. Yellow stars continued to fade in and out of existence, and mysterious silhouettes moved back and forth. Then everything was black. With a deep breath, he opened his eyes. What became a blur slowly turned into a clear picture. He looked around the room, realizing he was in the school infirmary once again. His entire body was in bandages and an aching feeling rose from his chest. There was someone sitting on a chair next to him, eyeing him down. It was Aren, and he was expressing a worried look. A surge of feelings swelled through Merlin.

  He was the reason Senior died.

  His fists clenched as he tried to hide his emotions, though Aren saw through the effort.

  “Hey kid. You are in a rough shape.”

  “I know,” Merlin said, his voice trembling in rage.

  “That was pretty impressive to face up someone stronger than you. You, uh… hanging in there?”

  Merlin was silent.

  “Listen, Merlin, I just—”

  “What are you doing here? Why did you take your time to visit me? You have important things to do so… please leave.”

  “You’re part of that list of important things. Trust me.”

  “Trust you…?”

  “It’s not what—”

  Merlin threw his hands down and yelled as loud as he could. “Then what is then? You killed Senior! Only if you stopped when we told you to, we… we—!” Several tears came down from his cheeks, but he quickly wiped them away. “It’s no use. I’m sorry… I’m sorry.”

  Minutes passed before the two let out another word. Aren didn’t know what to say, but he had to break the silence between them. “You all right? Let it out if there are more feelings hiding.”

  “I don’t know, Mr. Aren. The feeling is still there, but what can I do? If we caught you, we wouldn’t have to enter in the Forest of Sorrows. Yet again, I was given the option to stay behind, so Senior will be still alive. Then yet again…”

  Merlin lowered his eyes. “It’s no use. My anger towards you won’t do any good. All I can do is learn from the past and do better. That’s what the Head Maester taught me.”

  Aren blinked several times. “That’s a very mature way of taking things. This, uh, Head Maester took care of you real good. What is she to you?”

  “W-Well… You can say she’s my caretaker. I was an orphan, living in the streets of Greenville. No parents came to find me, no relatives, no memories either. I was trying my best to survive.” Merlin sighed. “She passed by me one day while the other orphaned kids bullied me in the markets. Said there was something special in me and from that day forward, I was part of her family.”

  Aren chuckled. “So, she’s your mother? Not saying it outright is kinda cute.”

  Merlin’s face turned bright red. “Y-You can say that. I want to repay her as thanks through training and hard work. It always ends in failure, no matter how hard I try. I am sullying her family’s name. Deadweight’s all I am.”

  “Just deadweight… Huh.”

  The young mage saw Aren’s face darkened. “Mr. Aren, are you okay?”

  Aren took out something from his pocket and handed it to him. It was a yellow yarn string. It puzzled Merlin why he was given such.

  “Make the string straight. Go ahead.”

  “Mr. Aren, what are you…”

  Aren raised his brow and waited. Merlin sighed and looked at the piece of yarn. He remembered an item reinforcement spell and cast it on the yarn. The yarn became stiff and after straightening it, the thread was linear.

  “Ah, a reinforcement spell using Natural Mana. That’s one solution, but not the one I’m looking for.”

  “There’s… more than one solution?” Merlin pondered.

  Aren took the string and pushed his finger at its tip. The reinforcement spell broke, and the yarn limped. “Ever wonder why your reinforcement spell doesn’t work?”

  “Maybe it’s because I’m a horrible mage, that’s all.”

  “It’s more than that.”

  Merlin perked up. “W-What do you mean?”

  “First things first, pop quiz: how many types of magical energy there are in the world?”

  Merlin nodded, lifting his first finger. “The first one is Natural Mana. I was taught that all living things disperse mana from their bodies as they age. We take that energy and convert it to magic.”

  “Yup, very common practice,” Aren remarked. “Most mages use such method since it is the safest. After all, there is an abundance of Natural Mana, especially in places of thick vegetation. Why bother using anything else when the resource is right in front of you?”

  Merlin lifted his second finger. “Then there is Inner Mana. It is magical energy all living things are born with. I was told it was dangerous to use since if you overuse it, you can die at the worst circumstance.”

  “That’s true. Your Inner Mana is your life force. Too much and you die.”

  Merlin was silent and once again, Aren raised his brow. The young mage looked at his fingers, seeing only two raised, and glanced back, confused. Damore, according to the history books, have been using these two methods of magic casting for centuries. If there were more, surely there would be a mention of it somewhere in the Academy.

  “Really, that’s it? The Academy only taught you those two?”


  Aren smirked and held up four fingers. “Inner Mana, Natural Mana, Ki, and Spirit: those are the four ways of utilizing magic.”

  “Ki and Spirit?”

  “Here, let me show you.” Aren held the yarn in front of Merlin. He grunted and a burst of yellow light surrounded the string. Merlin tried to move the thread, but it was as hard as steel.

  Merlin chuckled in glee. “W-Woah, that’s amazing! I never seen anything like this!”

  “This is Ki. You use your body’s energy to convert it into an aura, like this. Inner Mana and Natural Mana are consistent when it comes to casting spells, but with Ki, it is violent and unpredictable when left unchecked.”

  The strand of yarn vibrated violently. It exploded, shredding itself apart into many pieces.

  “It looks… very unsafe for use,” Merlin said.

  “Yup. Controlled Ki energy is strong enough to break through most spells created using Inner and Natural Mana, though your stamina would be gone in a heartbeat without the proper training. Overuse will cause shortness of breath, inflammation of muscles… The bad physical stuff, basically.”

  “That’s rather exciting. How about the fourth one?”

  “Slow down, chief. I know you’re excited. All right, Spirit energy.”

  Aren rummaged in his bag, taking out a white piece of paper. The edges were painted in ruby red and on the center, foreign symbols Merlin could not comprehend. Aren grunted once again, and the symbols on the paper glowed in bright blue. The ink on the paper came together, forming into a cat-like entity. The cat stretched out, then meowed.

  Merlin’s mouth dropped. “Is this… an animal spirit? It formed from the… woah.”

  “Now this is Spirit energy. You call upon spirits to do the magic for you. In cases like this, well, you can straight up summon them. The symbols on the paper invoke the spirit’s name.”

  “What did you write on the paper?”

  “Oh, that? Means ‘Repair Cat.’ You’ll see why.”

  Aren gestured the cat to the thread. The spirit nodded and ate the shredded pieces. After a couple of seconds, it regurgitated the thread and disappeared. The sight appalled Merlin, though was shocked to see the yarn whole again. He took the wool string and stared at it for some time.

  “This is amazing. There were two other ways of using magical energy!”

  “You are from the West. Of course, you wouldn’t know about this.”

  Merlin lowered his eyes. “But why tell me this? What does this have to do with me?”

  “Well, it has nothing to do with you, really: wanted to test your knowledge on the mystic arts. This is relevant to you: do you know who your biological parents are?”

  “Not really. All I remember was being a street orphan. Everything else before that is… foggy.”

  “Amnesia?” Aren touched his chin. “Is that a side effect from…? No, it can’t be.”

  “Amnesia, side effect? Eh…?”

  “Seems like you have no idea. Hate to break it to you, but you are a half-demon human Merlin.”

  Merlin’s eyes widened. “E-E-E-E-EXCUSE ME?”

  “You heard that right.”

  “T-That’s insane! There’s no way I can be half-demon! I… don’t feel like a savage incarnate, at least. How can you be so sure?!”

  Aren tapped Merlin’s chest. “Every living thing has Inner Mana. The reason for that? Magic Cores.”

  Merlin remembered his lectures about Magic Cores. Cores regenerate life force at a steady pace for a living thing to live, like what the heart does to the body. As the host ages, the Core begins to whittle away. There are three key factors when it comes to its eventual breakage: if it cracks in half but doesn’t break, you won’t be able to cast magic but will be still alive; if it is shattered too much without breaking, you will turn into an empty husk; if it breaks apart, you die.

  Even after recalling the details, he still didn’t understand what Aren was going for. He tilted his head and spoke in an anxious tone. “Why did you bring such topic to light? Wait, is it because my core is cracked? Oh no, am I—?!”

  Aren shook his head. “Nonono, stop jumping to conclusions. All right, listen: creatures have blue cores, celestials have white, and demons have red. Those with red and white cores have mana capabilities beyond comprehension. Your core is half red and half blue, so there’s some crazy power hidden in you. Whoever your parents were, one of them was a demon for sure.”

  Merlin looked at his hands. “If that’s the case, why is it I have such a hard time casting magic?”

  “It’s because your core is unstable. Most likely explains why sometimes your magic works, sometimes it doesn’t.” Aren raised both of his palms. “Your demon side is always clashing with your human side. Both are trying to take over another, resulting your imperfect casting.”

  “If it becomes stable… then that means I can cast magic perfectly!”

  Aren shook his head. “That’s not the only problem. If your demon side fully cons—”

  Merlin came close to his face with puppy-like eyes. “Mr. Aren, please help me with my magic core! Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease!”

  “Hey, I was in the middle of saying something important! Don’t you—”

  “I am sure with your help all of my problems will be fixed! No one would look at me as deadweight with your guidance. Pleeeeeeeeeease?”

  “You really sure? You’re asking help from the person who indirectly killed your good friend Senior. Are you okay with that?”

  Merlin calmed himself down and took some time to think. Aren caused the deaths of many innocent lives. If he stopped and was taken in by the Border Patrol, Senior would be still alive. However, Miss Layette and the people trapped in the Forest of Sorrows would’ve died if it wasn’t for his help, and those shadowy-creatures would be released upon the world. After taking those points into consideration, he put out his hand with a serious expression.

  “I forgive you.”

  Aren widened his eye in disbelief. “Just like that? Are you serious?”

  “Those people in the forest would be dead if it weren’t for you. Same with me and Miss Layette too. I’m still mad, but you did good things. I’m sure if Senior was here, he would thank and forgive you as well. So yes, I forgive you.”

  “Ah, I sense a catch to that forgiveness,” Aren said, smirking. “All right, let me hear your terms.”

  “I forgive you… if you will be my teacher. Please, pretty please?”

  “That’s it? Sure, I can teach you a thing or two.”


  The two shook hands and chuckled afterwards. Aren stayed to spend more time with Merlin, explaining the ways to control his core. Beyond the front door of the infirmary was Stein. He listened to their entire conversation and couldn’t help but smile.

  One nurse came up to him. “Mr. Wolfenstein, why are we still standing here? We have yet to check on the patient’s condition.”

  “Looks like happiness is one way to treat an injury: seems to be working on this one.” Stein waved his hand. “Let those two have a moment. Five minutes should do it.”

  “Yes, sir.”

  The nurses went off and Stein tapped on his clipboard as he made his way to the Head Maester’s office. This was the first time, in a long time, he saw Merlin smile.

You may also like: