Friday, the last day of Muni entrance exams, Special exam. Examiners give Kiel a final artifact, whose enchantment he doesn’t need to replicate but to just draw out. However, Kiel finds that the enchantment is too small and he can’t sense it clearly with his mana sense. While Kiel is stressing out, Elaru can feel his panic and wants to help him, however, the anti-cheating contract they had signed prevents them from communicating. So she comes up with an idea to break it as a part of her special exam and shocks the trio of old men with her ability. After breaking her contract she realizes that Kiel no longer needs her help and a backlash of Kiel’s actions hits her. After the appearance of the headmaster Eruan Arite, she finally manages to break away from the trio of shameless old men, leaving the classroom.
* * *
Without further ado, she erased her presence, wrapping herself in her mind cocoon and layers of invisibility. She had just flown several meters down the corridor when her entire vision turned dark.
Episode 145 – Reunion
Her mana vision blurred in front of her eyes, her mind turning foggy.
She stopped to lean on the wall.
The corridors were strangely empty. Strangely quiet.
In the deathly silence, her labored breathing was especially audible.
Even the dripping of her blood could be heard clearly, as it rolled down her chin onto the floor.
With her back pressed against the wall, she slid down onto her behind.
This time, she didn’t bother to wipe away the trickling blood.
Instead, she reached into her pouch, fumbling through it for some time before her trembling fingers managed to take out a bottle of pills.
She flicked the cork out and stuffed a handful of pills down her throat as if eating candy.
Then she just sat, with her eyes closed, taking in deep breaths.
Her mana vision had cleared up, once again revealing the bloody red flower of flames staring at her from deep underground. Without an eye or a pupil, even for Elaru it was difficult to tell the focus of its attention.
But right now, she could feel its gaze clearly. It was almost prickling her skin.
“Those pills can only lessen the symptoms, not treat the cause.” A disembodied emotionless voice whispered inside her head. “Forceful activation of Aethernea has destabilized your vessel.”
Elaru let out a long sigh before speaking out into thin air. “Can you fix it?”
* * *
Elaru blinked her long black eyelashes furiously. As if trying to blink away sleep, to blink away the moisture in her eyes blurring her vision. She didn’t think of whether her blinking would be effective. It was just a natural instinct of a person whose bright world had suddenly turned dark. An instinct to blink the darkness away.
As her own reflection became crystal clear in front of her eyes, her fluttering eyelashes finally calmed down.
She stared at the black shiny surface that was so clear it could have just as well been a mirror.
For a moment she thought that something went haywire, for the face looking back at her wasn’t quite the same as she remembered it. It was paler than usual, looking even paler due to the faded markings on her face. Their usually deep black color was washed out, fading out, almost blending with her skin.
And then she realized that her current state was to be expected. Thus, she only sighed tiredly and wiped her hand over her face.
When she looked back at her reflection, her face had been restored back to its usual radiance, her markings looking the same as they always did.
* * *
Kiel had been sitting under this tree for an indeterminate amount of time, yet only after he felt Elaru’s familiar warm aura wash over him did he wake up from his daze.
Only then did it occur to him that he had no recollection of how or when he arrived here.
He had been walking slowly, scarcely paying attention where he was going, his mind occupied with various thoughts. Out of habit he made his way to this familiar place and then he just sat there, not knowing what to do with himself, looking like a soulless statue.
Thinking about it now, he did have a vague recollection of walking here but the memories of what he was thinking at the time were much clearer.
Feeling Elaru’s aura coming closer he let out a sigh of contentment. Her presence felt like a warm water bath on a cold winter night, instantly relaxing him and sobering him up.
He raised his eyes to ask her “What took you so long?” but before he could do so Elaru lunged at him with her arms outstretched making his entire body involuntarily stiffen.
His head rigidly moved to look down at the arms circling his waist and the red head burrowing into his chest, and suddenly blood rushed into his head.
A second later he jumped to his feet, resembling a hissing lunar with its hair standing up. “Get! Off! What in the name of everything sacred are you doing?!”
“It’s called a hug.” He could hear a murmur from the region of his stomach, the vibration causing a tickling yet electrifying current to spread from his navel to his limbs.
“I know what it is called!” He hissed, doing his utmost to control his volume. “And I can’t imagine what made you think that it would be a good idea!”
Surprisingly, this time her hold was unusually weak for he easily managed to push her away. And even more surprisingly, instead of feeling satisfied that he had managed to get her off easily for a change, he felt… almost disappointed.
It gave no sense of achievement if she complied so easily – he reasoned.
“I thought that you might be in a need of a hug. And I wanted to remind you that you are not alone in whatever mess you’ve gotten yourself into.”
And that’s when Kiel realized that his earlier episode didn’t go unnoticed by his little soulmate. “Ah… it’s nothing…” His glare melted and he looked away to hide his embarrassment.
“…what do you mean mess? I don’t get us into trouble… that’s your job…” Kiel mumbled under his breath.
Elaru’s mouth jerked upwards. Who was the one being chased by the entire Rroda family and even an assassin? – she thought, but decided not to bring that up. Instead, she scanned him up and down with an unreadable face, yet no matter how good she was at controlling her facial expression Kiel could feel worry oozing out of her aura loud and clear.
“Is your body feeling alright?” She didn’t wait for Kiel to respond before stuffing a bottle of healing pills into his arms. “Here, I’ve got some healing pills.”
Kiel looked at the encouraging smile spreading on her calm face, then he looked down at the bottle of pills in his hand, and his mouth couldn’t help but twitch. Why are you putting on a nonchalant attitude when you are clearly worried sick?
Well… forget it… Kiel shook his head wryly; both his heart and face couldn’t help but warm up. He looked away again, avoiding her large inquisitive eyes, yet his slim fingers unconsciously patted her red head. The feel of the silky red strands was nothing short of addicting.
Elaru stared at the side of Kiel’s face, feeling his warm and gentle fingers on her head. A conflicted expression flashed briefly on her face tinged with sorrow, before she once again covered it up with a bright smile.
* * *
When Kiel mentioned his sudden ability to see the spell as if he was seeing it through her eyes, Elaru didn’t have much to say about it:
“You should avoid doing something like that in the near future.” – was her conclusion. “It obviously puts a lot of strain on the body. It is possible that you forcefully activated some ability for which our bond isn’t ready yet. I feel that our bond sustained some damage in a backlash. It’ll take some time for it to recover to its previous state.”
That’s when Kiel realized that the mana coming from his marking had decreased. And then he felt very, very glad that the mana exam had already passed.
“What kind of ability do you think it is? Is it possible that the bond can allow me to use your Aethernea as if it was mine?” – he had asked her.
“Your guess is as good as mine.” Elaru had shrugged her shoulders and that was the end of that.
Instead of lingering on this topic, Kiel had continued his recollection, moving onto IPOMQ.
“This is the first time I’ve heard of such a power. I don’t think it’s something granted to you by the Aetherneal bond. As for the possibility of it being an Aethernea… it doesn’t resemble any Aethernea that I know of. But then again, I’m hardly an expert on the matter. I am not even that familiar with my own Aethernea of Sight let alone others.” Elaru mused.
“What do you mean? How can you not be familiar with your own Aethernea?” Kiel’s eyebrow jumped.
“Aethernea of Sight gives one the ability to see things others can’t see. But not everyone who possesses it can see the same things. All of us get a basic boost to vision making our eyes keener than argel eyes, and all of us can see mana. But that is where our similarities end.
Some wielders of Aethernea of Sight can zoom in on their target to the point of seeing cells and tiny particles. And then there are others that have the ability to see through all illusions. Others still, can see through things… like walls… or clothes.”
Kiel’s abrupt change of expression and unconscious covering of private parts didn’t escape Elaru’s eyes. She couldn’t help but burst out into a fit of giggles. “No, I can’t see through clothes. And if I could, I wouldn’t have used it to peep.”
After a brief pause to giggle some more she didn’t forget to add another jab: “Unless it was something that I can’t control. In which case I would have already seen all your assets. No need to cover up now.”
A grumpy glare was her only response. That and him nonchalantly moving back his hands from his lap as if he had just been stretching and not covering himself up in a fluster.
“Actually, since I don’t know what my specialty is, it could be anything. Perhaps I can see through things after all.” Elaru stroked her chin in thought and teasingly glanced towards Kiel’s lap.
He barely restrained the urge to throw something at her face.
“My specialty is probably something that isn’t active all the time but rather needs to be activated first. And I just haven’t figured out how to activate it yet. Or perhaps my ability is something like increased range and accuracy of mana vision? I do have better mana vision than other wielders of Aethernea of Sight…”
He hummed a bit and then shrugged. “Aetherneal gifts improve with usage so papa has a theory that all Aethernea have the ability to evolve. That after they are strengthened up to a certain point, a new ability would become available to the wielder. He thinks that in its ultimate state, Aethernea of Sight encompasses all sight related abilities and even more. But because each wielder takes a different route to the top, they activate different abilities at different points in time.”
Kiel’s icy blue eyes flashed with suspicion. “Since wielders of Aethernea can activate a never before seen aspect of their power then…theoretically, IPOMQ might be a power granted by an Aethernea?”
“Does your body heal at a rate visible to the naked eye?” Elaru blurted out.
“What? No.” Kiel turned to look at Elaru baffled.
“Then you don’t possess the Aethernea of Life.” Elaru concluded.
Seeing Kiel’s strange look, she elaborated. “Each Aethernea has a basic set of abilities that every user possesses. So even if you had an Aethernea and awakened an unknown power as a part of its evolution, you would still have access to the basic abilities of that Aethernea.”
She paused again, scratching her head. “Do you have an extremely keen sense of smell that allows you to track people and things after smelling them just once?”
“No…” Kiel drawled. I’m not a trackog…
“Do you have frequent inexplicable feelings driving you to do strange things?”
Kiel shot a you-can’t-be-serious look her way. “Like what? Are you making fun of me?”
“I kid you not …uh… wielders of Aethernea of Fate are known for being… lucky. They have a keen intuition for danger and fortune.” Elaru smiled sheepishly. “I suppose you would have surely realized if you had a keen intuition… How about hearing other people’s thoughts? I suppose you can’t do that either?”
Kiel threw her an annoyed glare. “If I could hear your thoughts why would I even bother talking to you?”
Coming up in the next episode:
Kiel broke out in goosebumps. Forget it. Aethernea wielders are a bunch of weirdos… I certainly don’t belong in that group.
Kiel didn’t respond. He even momentarily forgot that Elaru was still messing up his hair with her pats.
What is this? I guess there is some compassion left in me after all.
Straight through the heart! Kiel felt like puking blood. Can you not be so direct?!
Seeing her flailing arms, drooping ears and aggrieved look that was an ultimate combination of cuteness and seductiveness, Kiel concluded that he had administered the appropriate punishment, and finally, regrettably, let go of her soft cheek.
This episode is dedicated to combatmaster1o3. Thank you so much for your support and patience! I am so sorry for the lack of communication the last week. See this post for details. I’ll make it up to you in the future with more frequent appearances on Discord.