Chapter 60: Romantic Idiot
“Art, can we talk?” As she resolved herself, the slight trembling in her voice disappeared.
“Yeah… it seems that there’s a third party at work here trying to make us talk anyways.” I sit back, leaning on my arms, my face dripping with the fresh water.
“About the k-kiss… Are you mad?” Tessia’s face was bright red, revealing how nervous she felt compared to her firm face.
“I’m not mad. I was surprised, but I’m not mad.” I would be lying if I said I didn’t notice that Tessia liked me since all the way back when I lived with her in Elenoir.
There was brief silence where I could tell Tessia was waiting for me to say something, except, right now; I didn’t know what to say.
If I had to choose between like and dislike, of course I liked Tessia, but what did that mean? Do I just go out with her? There’s also the fact that we were both young. I mean, it wasn’t unnatural for children, especially of royalty, to get married at the age of 13-14 but it wasn’t exactly normal from where I came from.
Sigh… what’s the point in being so experienced in fighting and politics when I don’t even know where to start when it comes to something so basic like love.
“Arthur… you know what I’m waiting for, right?” She leans closer as her brow furrows. The intensity in which she was staring me made me uncomfortable but this issue wasn’t something I could keep pushing aside.
“Tess, we’ve known each other since we were four. The first time I saw you, you were getting kidnapped after you had a fight with your parents. The first thing you did when I saved you was crying your heart out. After we made our way back into your kingdom, I was fortunate enough to be able to stay in your castle, where your grandpa and eventually even your parents warmed up to me. Even now, your family and mine get along to the point of it being weird…” I take a deep breath before I try to continue.
“I don’t understand what you’re trying to say.” Tessia has an irritated look on her face as she puts one hand on top of mine.
“Tessia. We’re still so young. I mean, I’m only twelve and you’ve barely turned thirteen as well! I know that it’s not weird for a girl your age to get married since you are royalty, but I mean, I don’t have that background.” I realized I was stuttering a bit.
“Art. I know you well enough and right now, you’re just making excuses. You and I both know that what I meant wasn’t to get married right away. I-I just want things to progress. Even from the time we were back in Elenoir, you just treated me like I was a kid! It’s been almost 8 years since then, Art… I have a lot to learn but I don’t consider myself such a child anymore.” Her stern gaze turned soft as she was desperately trying to reason with me.
“Sigh…It’s because I’ve known you since we were both children that it’s harder for me to see you as anything more, at least right now, Tess. It hasn’t even been that long since we’ve met in quite a long time as well.” I can feel my argument coming out more and more as petty excuses.
She lets go of my hand and springs up. I look up to see her shaking, trying to hold back tears.
“So, you’re telling me that all of this time, you haven’t once thought of me as anything more than a childhood friend?” She softly mutters.
I didn’t know how to respond. I, of course, did try thinking of her as more than a friend, but it wasn’t just about that. Although I’ve spent 12 years in this body, I spent over thirty years in my past body. I also visited the orphanage I grew up in multiple times and helped take care of kids that were Tess’s age.
“I see.” She whispers.
I guess she thought of my silence as my answer. Tessia spins back and stomps towards the door of the training facility.
“You know, Arthur. You’re so confident in so many things. Magic, fighting, using your brain. You’re so damn confident in everything you do because you’re good at them. But, you know what? There are things you’re not good at. You’re not good at confronting your feelings. You always put on a mask and pretend you’re happy or apathetic when you can’t handle a certain situation. I think in that sense, you’re a lot less mature than even the so called children you see in this academy. You’re just using your confidence in your strong suits to mask the insecurities you have in aspects you know you’re not good at!” Tears stream down Tessia’s eyes as she cries this last rebuttal.
As the door closes behind her, I’m left with an eerie silence that not even the sound of the waterfall could cover.
‘Papa’s a dummy…’ Sylvie curls up a couple of meters away, turning away from me.
I sat in front of the pond, stunned by Tessia’s last words. I had to admit that in some ways, maybe Tess was more mature than I was. Even in my past life, aside from being a great fighter, I wasn’t that impressive of a man. I had the charisma and character to appeal to the mass but when it came to interpersonal relationships, I consider myself mediocre on a good day. I grew up avoiding long lasting relationships, seeing them as nothing more than a burden that would eventually be used against me. In order to be the best, I had to have no weaknesses, and having a lover would eventually lead to my demise.
I’ve come to realize this even more since coming into this world. Having family that I would happily die for makes me think of how truly weak I am. If someone were to kidnap any one of my family members, no matter how strong I personally was, wouldn’t I just be at their beck and call?
The thought of having a lover, someone I could call my other half, was a wonderful thing, but it was also something that truly scared me.
After putting back the bracelet that sealed my fire and water elemental attributes, I made my way back to the surface and headed towards my next class. How was I supposed to face Tessia in my Team Fighting Mechanics class? Even Sylvie was pouting on top of my head because I made Tess angry.
“Good to have you back, Art.” Claire ran next to me, giving me a firm slap on the back.
“Are you feeling a bit better?” Curtis also catches up to us, Grawder following behind him.
“I’ll probably have to sit out for a couple more classes, but I’m okay.” Giving him a weak smile, we arrived at the field.
“Good to see you walking, Mr. Leywin!” Professor Glory beams when she sees the three of us arrive but when she was about to walk over to us, I feel a killing intent radiating next to her.
Lucas had a harsh look on his face as he took big, confident strides towards Curtis, Claire and I.
My gaze matches his and neither of us looks away as he approaches me. Gripping my shirt up by the collar, he pulls me close to his face.
“I think we need a rematch.” His pretty blond face was a sight to behold as he scowled, my face only a few centimeters away from his.
Gripping the wrist of his hand that was holding onto my collar, I reply, my face stone cold and eyes deadlocked to his.
“This is a pretty rude way to ask for something.” I grip hard enough to make his hand lose strength, but I don’t stop there. Willing mana around me, I surround the both of us in a gale, making his knees give out.
Grimacing in pain, Lucas mumbles something inaudibly and soon has orange flames conjured in his free palm, ready to fire at me.
“That’s enough!” Professor Glory roars as she gets in the way of the two of us using her sheathed sword.
“Arthur, go rest in the viewing platform. You’re not to take part in any activities in this class until you’re fully healed, Director Goodsky’s orders. As for you Lucas, you need to calm down. Whether you want to settle your petty grudge with a fight or with a hug, do it after Arthur is fully healed. Now is not the time.” She lets out a sigh as she pushes me softly towards the viewing platform. After walking for half a day, I didn’t need my sword to lean on but I couldn’t walk at a normal pace either.
Looking around, I try to find Tessia but she wasn’t here. “Professor Glory, where’s Princess Tessia?”
“She stopped by not too long before you came saying she wasn’t feeling well. She said she would make up class somehow but she seemed off so Clive took her back to her dorm. Why? Do you know anything?” Professor Glory leans down and looks at my face.
Shaking my head, I start thinking about what I should do.
“You can get up to the viewing platform without starting another fight, right? Just rest up for a couple more days.” She places a gentle hand on my shoulder before running back off towards where the rest of the class was.
I watched the class split up into different teams and get in various formations for different circumstances. In scenarios like sieging, Conjurers play a crucial role so Augmenters get into a much more defensive position, focusing solely on protecting the damage dealers. In scenarios where guerilla fights are necessary, only one or two Augmenters stay close to the Conjurer as the rest go off on their own.
The class was only a week in so it was very basic. But still, Professor Glory was teaching the class pretty well, with everyone really into the class and having fun, but I just couldn’t stay focused, thinking only about how I screwed things up.
My next class was the class I was actually looking forward to the most, Deviant Magic Theory. Unfortunately, our professor, Professor Drywell placed upmost importance covering the basics first, so even after a week has passed, she was barely covering the basics of Deviant Magic.
“Whenever Deviant Magic is involved, there is a much bigger stress on the price of your magic. Why do you think that is? It’s because Deviant Magic, like its name, is deviant from the natural elemental mana pool that is evident in our world. The mana that surrounds us is made up of only fire, wind, earth and water mana. Deviant magic that comes from the higher form of these four elements have a much greater cost, as I would like to say, compared to the four original elements because there is no such thing as Lightning, Plant, Gravity, Metal, Magma, Sound, or Ice mana surrounding us in the atmosphere. In order to produce these phenomena in our spells, the mage must be able to directly alter their parent element and manipulate it into its deviant form.” Professor Drywell chattered on and on. She was a very aged lady and although she had the image of a nice quiet grandmother, she never stopped talking.
“Professor! But Gravity, Lightning, Metal, Magma, Sound, and Ice all exist naturally in our world as well. Why doesn’t our world produce these types of mana then?” A girl that looked about 17 asked the professor.
“Good question, young one! Honestly, no one knows for sure why that is! Many magic theorists believe that because a certain set of conditions must be met for those deviant elements to occur, mana directly correlated to them does not exist. Then there is the always the exceptions such as fire, where certain it does not just spontaneously without cause. Perhaps that is why most mages believe fire to be the highest form of normal magic, because it is so close to being a deviant magic itself.” She explains while pacing around the lecture hall.
“Deviation magic that strays even further from the four main elemental mana in our world comes at even a greater cost. All of you know what Emitters are. They are healers, essentially. The mana that they utilize does not fall under the category of water, earth, fire, or wind. Instead, I would dare say that there exists a holy element, or light element to be more accurate. Emitters gain little benefit from absorbing mana from the atmosphere because there is no light elemental mana within our world. Instead, they work to condense and purify the mana that forms in their mana core so that even when less mana is used, there is still a substantial effect in their spells.” I can tell Professor Drywell was running out of breath because her voice was getting higher.
After she finished her lesson for today, we had a short Q&A session but no one really had any questions to ask because we were afraid that class would never finish. Eventually Professor Drywell let us go and I trudged on to my last class, which was Spell Formations I.
Most of the students in this class were Conjurers but some of the smarter Augmenters knew that they could gain benefits in their skills by taking this class. Our teacher, Professor Mayner, was a scholarly-looking man with a monocle and mid split hair. His mustache was well trimmed and over his suit, he wore a white gown.
“Welcome students. I was notified by Director Goodsky that a student named Arthur Leywin will begin joining us for class, am I correct?” He looked around, his monocle catching the glare from the light in the classroom.
“Yes, I’m Arthur Leywin, please guide me well.” I give a small bow as he nods in approval.
“Very well! You did not miss anything too important Mr. Leywin. We were going over the different types of spell formations, from individual spell incantations to group spell formations. Care to tell us what you know about spell formations?” He adjusts his monocle as he walks towards me, his back never bending.
“To my knowledge, spell formations is the conjoining and/or altering of basic spells and skills in order produce a different phenomena, whether that be to the user himself, or the specific point in space the spell was invoked.” I answer.
“A most solid answer indeed, Mr. Leywin. Very good!” He clapped his hands once before he went back to the front of the class where he began lesson.
“I would first like you all to imagine a scenario. Imagine a world where everyone could read everyone’s mind. The fleeting thoughts that can make even the purest man seem perverse or the nicest woman seem cruel are all laid out in the open for others to read. I believe that that world would house the best mages ever known.” He leaves all confused with this story.
“Moving on…why do Conjurers and even Augmenters chant spells? It is not the words that invoke the spell or technique. Instead, the words influence the caster’s consciousness, filling his mind with the correct ‘suggestion’ if you will that molds the mana into the desired spell.” The sound of everyone furiously scribbling in their notebooks fills the room.
Professor Mayner was a great speaker and he made the class engaged with the material he was teaching.
“To give a rather humorous example, if I were to say to a girl that liked me, ‘I have always loved you,’ the girl I said this to, you can bet that there will be some sort of reaction. The ‘incantation’, which was ‘I have always loved you’ triggers the response or the ‘spell’ from her, whether that is blushing, crying, a smile, etc.” The class roared with laughter at the metaphor, but I couldn’t help but wince.
“All in all, if the caster can control his consciousness to mold the mana into his desired spell, then incantations can be greatly shortened or they might not even need it at all! The reason Augmenters don’t need to focus so much on chanting is because the spells they use almost always directly involves them using their own body. Conjurers, on the other hand, have to cast much more precise and complicated spells, which require these incantations so that their spells don’t become totally different with a switch of a thought. That is why I said that if there was a world where everyone could read each others’ minds, that world would also have the greatest of magicians. Why? Because they would have absolute control over their thoughts.”
The class went on and while the Professor was a great lecturer, I wasn’t able to focus as my mind kept shifting back to Tessia and what she said before leaving.
Hiding my insecurities with my confidence…
Was that what I was doing? Am I using the fact that I was a lot better at magic than everyone else as an excuse to avoid confronting what I was actually bad at?
I was being a hypocrite. I was going on about how I shouldn’t see Tessia as anything more than a child but I was actually the one that needed to grow up. Getting stronger in my strong points couldn’t fill in my weak points, it just made them that much more apparent in comparison.
Tess is young. She’s also innocent, but that didn’t mean she was ignorant. Maybe I was the ignorant one.
“Class is over! Have a great night, students. I shall see you all tomorrow!”
Even as I was walking back to my dorm, my mind was all over the place, almost tripping over myself various times.
I changed directions to where the student council dorms were. Running as fast as my body would let me, I arrived at the building that was much fancier than my dorm hall was.
I’m here. How do I meet Tess? It’s not like I could just shout out and call for her…
‘Papa, Mama is over there.’ Sylvie points east with her paw and without questioning, I run in that direction.
“I’m telling you, I’m okay! Please, just let this go, Clive.” I hear Tessia’s voice in the courtyard near the fountain.
“No! How dare that brat, Arthur make you cry. I knew he would only cause trouble! His poor upbringing is definitely the cause. I can’t imagine why Director Goodsky even allowed that peasant in this prestigious academy, and as a Disciplinary Committee, no less!” I vaguely make out Clive’s thin frame as he was holding onto Tessia by her wrist.
Clive notices me approaching and his face contorts into a scowl. “What the hell do you think you’re doing here? You dare try and meet Princess Tessia after you’ve made her this unwell? If it were up to me, I’d kill you right now!”
Ignoring the thin, stern-looking Vice-President, I look at Tessia who turns away. “Tess, can I have some of your time?”
“You’re ignoring me?!” Clive roars as he lets go of Tessia’s wrist and grabs onto my shoulder, when I turn and face him.
“Piss off.” I couldn’t hold in the amount of irritation I felt from this brat and my situation with Tess wasn’t making it any better. Letting out a bit too much killing intent I force Clive to jump back where he trips over himself and falls on his back.
“Y-YOU! Wh-what…” Too flustered, Clive was unable to produce anything more coherent as my gaze never left him.
“Stop. It’s not worth causing a scene over.” Tessia gets in between Clive and I and takes my hand, leading me out of the courtyard.
As I try to keep up with Tessia’s quick steps, I almost trip, my injured body still unable to do anything more than walking.
“H-hold on Tess, we’re going too fast. I’m still hurt.” I say in between breaths.
“Oh, I’m so sorry.” Tessia looks back and I can tell she was trying her best to look angry.
We were in an alley between the Director’s office and the Student Council’s Dorm when we stopped. As Tess lets go of my hand, she takes a step back and waits for me to catch my breath.
“Well? What do you want?” Tess turns her head away as she pouts.
“Tess. What you said about me, you were right. I’m now realizing that this whole time, I’ve been avoiding confronting you about your feelings. I was afraid. Magic and fighting is so much simpler, you know? The more you train, the better you get and the better outcome you see. Love…love doesn’t work that way.” I look at Tess but her expression doesn’t change.
“I was making excuses when I said that we were too young. I’m sorry. I do like you, Tess. I really do. I missed you when I got back home. I thought of you often and wondered what you were doing at the moment. The things I said earlier, they probably hurt your feelings a lot, right?” I scratch my head as Sylvie jumps off and goes on top of Tessia.
“Yes, and I’m still mad you know.” Her face was still turned but I caught her taking a quick glance at my face as her arms were still crossed.
“I’m sorry for making excuses, but can I ask you to be patient with me? I’m really no good at this, and in this aspect, I’m probably a lot less mature than you are. Can you wait for me to catch up?” I take a step forward and move my head to try and get her to look at me.
“Tch… So you say, but I bet you’re just going to find some other girl in the meantime.” She retorts while avoiding my gaze.
“I won’t do that. I promise.”
“How do you know? How am I supposed to trust that you’re not going to go and fall for someone else if I give you more time? You don’t understand, Art. I may not seem like it but I’m really selfish. I don’t want to share you. I want you all to myself!” She whips her head to me, her eyes filled with tears.
“What if you…”
My childhood friend instantly stops talking as I grab a hold of her waist, making Sylvie jump off of Tess. Warmth spreads over my lips as they come in contact with hers. It felt different this time compared to when she kissed me. Maybe it was because I was the one that initiated it, but it was a lot more delicate. I felt her trembling lips tense in surprise at first but then loosen in content as the side of my nose gently touched hers.
Letting go of her waist, I distance myself from her as I feel my face becoming hot.
“This is about the limit of what I can do. Like I said…I hope you can wait for me just a bit longer. I promise I won’t run off.” I say while looking down. This was the first time in both lives where I initiated a kiss, and I sure in hell wasn’t confident if I did the right thing or not.
I take a peek up at Tess’s face and see her with a glossy look in her eyes as her middle and index fingers were against her lips.
“Fine, just don’t make me wait too long or I’ll be the one to run off.” She snaps out of her daze and takes a step towards me, putting on an angry face.
“Deal.” I smile in relief from finally sorting things out with Tess when she suddenly lifts her head up and pecks me on my cheek.
Taken by surprise, I didn’t know what to say.
“That was for saving me in class last week.” She lets out a soft giggle; her eyes still red from crying. Without giving me a chance to respond, she runs off into the dorm building, leaving Sylvie and me alone in the alley.