After a heated discussion, Ged insisted Lady Niaela leave the room, ostensibly so he could discuss the matter with me in private.
As soon as the door shut though, I pointed out, “Big Brother, as headmaster of the school, she is the feudal lord of this town. And as long as we are her students, it doesn’t matter that we outrank her. We have to consent to this.”
For either Ged as the first prince or myself as a royal knight to defy her would constitute officially calling her fitness for duty into question.
With a scowl, he held up a finger, then led me to the center of the room. There, he began intoning, “Inscribe the needful form / By the shapings my mind decrees / Letters of light unfold / [Inscribe Formation]!”
Ged was casting the second level Light magic version of [Inscribe Formation]. Only Aether users can manage the resilient mana inscriptions that Ceria or Arken use, but other Mana types aren’t completely out of luck. The only drawback is, they require the user to continue feeding the mana to maintain the formation while they work the subsequent spell they want to cast. The extra level of concentration raises the resulting magic by a level of difficulty.
Only if the specific pattern were a light magic formation that was active on its own would it still be considered just a second-level magic. But the inscribe spell and the final spell together would require a level three magic amount of light mana.
“What is this?” I wondered, looking around at the glowing symbol surrounding our feet.
He pressed his glasses into place while staring me in the eyes. As he poured Wind mana into the formation, he intoned, “[Realm of Silence].”
Maintain two active mana types in an inscribed formation. He could do Level three magic now!
I gaped up at him. “Big Brother…”
“Look for intruder mana,” he interrupted. “Probably Wind.”
I thouroughly sensed the surroundings, then touched his right epaulet.
He put his hand on it and intoned “[Dispel]” while pouring more wind mana.
Then he smiled. “I knew she would put a bug on me.”
A ‘bug’, on Huade, means a spy pattern. Usually either Wind or Darkness mana. So he was stopping Niaela from listening in?
I asked, “When did you start doing level three magic?”
He tipped his head and gave his mild smile. “It’s been three years since you last saw me do magic, My Lady, and my magic tutor is your esteemed mother.”
That, I had not known. “Oh.”
He finally responded to my earlier statement. “Lady Niaela’s authority only matters as long as we are students. If you resign from the school, you can leave. She would have to call for the royal knights.”
“She can still send the provincial guard after me as a suspect.”
“Will she do it if I resign and go with you, I wonder?” he answered.
I gasped. “Big Brother, no!”
“Why not? There is no rule requiring me to graduate from this school or even attend it. It’s just a custom.”
I tipped my head and raised a brow. “Don’t you have someone to protect, here, Big Brother? You said there was a girl.”
“If she leaves the school with me, there’s no issue, is there?”
“Why would she…” I caught on at that point and grew disappointed. “You were talking about me. I was hoping you had found a girlfriend here.”
Ged gave me a long look, then told me, “Tiana, I refuse to court any of the women here.”
For a moment, my Tiana side took a quick detour. According to Amelia and company, more than a few rumors circulated among the female students, pairing him with his attendant knight, with Sir Belgar, or with other handsome associates. It must have showed on my face. He immediately scowled.
“I am not interested in any man either, woman!”
I guess he heard about the rumors already. With a giggle, I answered, “Sorry.”
He gave me a level stare. It wasn’t quite a glare. But then his eyes softened, and he stated, “For a very long time, there has been only one woman I would marry. I’m very much in love with her, and I won’t marry anyone else.”
I was a bit stunned. If this was the case, a lot of people would be very happy to hear it. Why was he keeping it secret?
“Have you told Uncle Owen?”
“Of course. And he told me the Privy Council already said no.”
“Already said no?”
“That union had already been considered and rejected. So I have informed Father I won’t accept any bride at all.”
My mouth dropped open. He really meant ‘won’t marry anyone else’ for real? “You’ll take only concubines?”
“I would take a wife before a concubine, so no.”
“You need an heir!”
“If I don’t produce one, then the woman I love will give birth to my heir.”
For several seconds, my mind whirled around, trying to work out his logic. If he didn’t produce an heir, then Rod or his heir would inherit. So how would the woman he loves…
The slow-witted me finally put this together with his previous words. I realized my mouth was hanging open again. I finally found my voice. “Big Brother… what are you saying…”
He pressed his lips together, then seized me by the shoulders and declared, “Ti, I love you! Tell Father to try again!”
“I’ve been in love with you forever! You’re the most beautiful woman I ever seen!”
What is thiiiiisss…..!!!!
Not one, but both of my brothers see me that way? What is going oonnnnn!
“That isn’t true, Big Brother” I objected, fighting for any way to counter this. It was a weak point, but it was a place to start. “I’m not the most beautiful woman you know. You know my mother, right?”
“She’s not as beautiful as you,” he stated without hesitation. “I’ve known how beautiful you are since the first time I saw you in the private garden, practicing with your wings”
But I remembered no incidents with Ged like what happened with Rod.
“Rod’s the one who peeped on me, Big Brother.”
“Rod’s the one who wasn’t smart enough to learn stealth magic first. Back then, I was watching you several times a week.”
I really have to work on my jaw muscle strength. I mean, Ged knew stealth magic at fifteen? Then my brain caught up again…
Several times a week?
I scowled. “Big Brother’s a pervert.”
“Pervert?” he protested.
“I was ten years old!”
Ged tipped his head as he shook it, growing that mild smile again. “You looked almost my age at the time, Ti. And I was only fifteen.”
“I repeat, I was ten!”
My blush was pretty deep. How do you keep your aplomb, knowing that the guy holding you by the shoulders is fondly remembering you more-or-less naked?
Then my logic circuits caught up with me as well. There was an open question that had been left laying there. “Wait a minute. Uncle Owen said the Privy Council already rejected me?”
He nodded. “You were originally my fiancée, Ti.”
It finally registered that he had reverted to calling me by my childhood nickname, just like Rod. Was it like a pet name to them?
But I understood what he was talking about, now. “That was because of my grandfather.”
He raised an eyebrow. “The Fairy King?”
I nodded. “Mother told me about it. When he tried to make Uncle Owen marry me, Uncle Owen accepted me for his son instead. She didn’t mention that she meant you.”
The frustration welled up again. “I was six months old! What was that old fool thinking?”
He smiled, then frowned, then grew a bit intense. “Ti… I want to tell Father I’m going to marry you no matter what they say.”
“Big Brother…” I shook my head slowly, worried about him now. I grew a frown of my own. Why was everyone losing their minds around me? What was happening here? Was somebody somehow messing with their minds?
He nodded, but continued. “Yes, I know. I won’t ask him without your permission. But if I asked for your permission, could it perhaps be possible that I could get it?”
The way he was looking at me… it really hurt. I could see the wish in his eyes. Something very deep in his heart was pushing him to ask this question. But as much as I loved my Big Brother, it wasn’t that kind of love, any more than it was with Rod.
And besides, speaking of Rod…
I took in a deep breath. As gently as I could say it, I told him, “To be honest, I want to be your little sister and I want to be Rod’s little sister and I don’t want to marry either one of you.”
He watched me without responding. I still had to give a real answer.
I admitted. “I know I’m not going to get that wish. But Big Brother, Rod is really, really happy right now. Do you know what you’re asking me to do to him?”
Ged pressed his lips together, then nodded. “I do. So your answer is…”
“No,” I said firmly. “I would rather not marry him either, but I won’t do something like that to Rod. He’s also precious to me.”
To my surprise, although his eyes filled with tears, his next move wasn’t to cry, or curse, or punch a wall. The way he had been acting a moment ago, so completely unlike Ged, I really was expecting one of those things would happen. Instead, he suddenly wrapped me tightly in his arms.
“Thank you, Ti,” he said with a rough voice.
My brain was again struggling to catch up. I mean, it was already weird, but this was even a touch weirder. “For what?”
“For refusing me.”
He was still hanging on to me. I just waited, not knowing what to say.
After a bit, he continued, “I still won’t marry anyone else, but… Gods, I wanted to do that to my own little brother. Thank you for refusing me.”
Part of me wanted to get angry at him, frankly. He and Rod both had gone very strange on me, and this little sister wanted to get very mad at them. I know they weren’t really my brothers, but in my mind, they were not supposed to have feelings like this about me.
But there was a pain and a sadness in his voice that didn’t let me. I just smiled, keeping my exasperation off my face, and patted his back.
Then, after letting him hold me just a few more breaths, I said, “You’re welcome. But you better release me before anyone sees this and gets the wrong idea, Big Brother.”
It was several heartbeats before he finally did.
After a moment to make sure of my decision, I stated, “We’re not going to resign from school. And I won’t run away. That would be like declaring my guilt. I’ll obediently let her lock me up. Hopefully, that vampire will keep attacking and she’ll get her evidence that I’m innocent.”
Ged wasn’t happy with the idea, but he nodded.