Prologue : Genesis
In the beginning there was nothing but darkness. An endless empty sea was all that existed until—there was light. It came from the center of the universe and was emanating from a being known as the original God. After coming into existence, they created 6 gods. Each was responsible for the creation and destruction of the main building blocks of the universe—Matter, Time, Life, Void, Entropy, and Death. These gods were responsible for keeping the balance between chaos and order.
Over the course of time, they started to build the universe bit by bit. The god of matter created the stars and planets of the universe; The god of time made them move and interact with space; The god of life created living beings to occupy those planets; The god of void destroyed the stars when they finally went out and subsequently the planets; The god of entropy corrected any deviation in the timeline to keep it from diverging; and The god of death was responsible for the demise of living beings.
The god of life was worried that life wasn’t going to be able to thrive in this universe. To maximize the prosperity of life, the gods all decided to consolidate life on one planet. They called this planet “Gaia”. The god of matter created the land and oceans. The god of life created all of the living beings that will inhabit it and the god of death, in collaboration with the god of life created the underworld outside the realm of space and time to house the souls of the dead.
This planet was inhabited by 5 nations—Nattur, Easifatan, Doxatos, Ferrum, and Kyokuchi. These kingdoms went about each of their ways of life. But, all of that was about to change. The gods of destruction and creation suddenly went into conflict. The cause of this conflict is yet to be known, but whatever it was, it caused a series of events that was about to disrupt the natural order of Gaia. The gods of destruction sent down manifestations of their divine power—known as avatars—in order to shift the balance of order and chaos. In response, the gods of creations did the same. Evidently, this story would be about the clash between these two forces.
Chapter 1 : Nucleus of Hope
It was an ordinary day in the kingdom of Doxatos. Everyone was going about their day as usual, except for one particular woman. This woman was about to give birth to a baby, a daughter to be specific. But this was no ordinary baby as she was in line to inherit the throne of Doxatos and continue the royal lineage. Indeed, this baby was none other than the child of queen Miourgia, the twenty fifth monarch of Doxatos.
The queen was using every breath to push out this baby. She was in the care of the best obstetrician that the kingdom has to offer and after hours of pushing, the baby was finally born. The obstetrician handed the baby off to her and asked, “What’s her name?”
She looked at him with a relieved expression and she replied, “Ava.” Thus, the heir to the Doxatos throne was born.
It has been ten years since the birth of Ava and she had gotten used to living in the royal estate. Her mother always attempts to spoil her rotten, but she never gives in to it as she always wanted to do things by herself. Her independence is accompanied with a sense of curiosity that made her try out new things by herself, which sometimes led to messy outcomes. Like on one occasion, she wanted to make one of her favorite dishes—beef stew—by herself. Her mother let her do it, which in turn created a big mess in the kitchen. This curiosity would soon reach new heights as she first discovered magic. She discovered it through a storybook that she read. When she read it, she thought that magic was just something that existed in fiction. But she would soon find out that magic was indeed, very real. Her mother was reading to her, when she expressed, “I wish that magic was real.”
Her mother replied, “It is real.”
“Huh?!” she stares. “It is?!”
“Yes, I can show you tomorrow.”
The next day, both Ava and her mother went to the academy of Xorkia located in the district of Myskis, one of the seven districts of Doxatos. This place was renowned for its proficiency in magic and thus, was a perfect location to show Ava the wonders of magic. They went to one of the academy’s courtyard to see a demonstration that was being done by a pyromancer, a fire mage. This pyromancer used fire to create sparks in different colors. As they watched it, Ava’s mother could see the wonder that was in her eyes. She asked, “Do you want to learn how to do magic?”
“Do I?” Ava replied. “Of course I want to.”
So from that day forward, Ava was on the road to becoming a mage. Her mother assigned her a tutor to help her learn the ins and outs of magic. She would start next week and they would spend one day a week learning about magic. Ava was ecstatic as she couldn't wait for next week to come by. In the meantime, her mother started preparing a room for her to learn in.
The next week eventually came by, and Ava was extremely enthusiastic for her lesson. She rushed to go meet with her tutor. They both met each other and started introducing themselves. Ava told him her name and he told her his—which was Tores. She was excited to finally learn all about magic. They started out with the basic fundamentals of magic. He gave her magic’s definition, “Magic is a force that can let us bend reality. It bends the rules of reality, but it can’t break it. For example, you can’t use magic to create an object out of nothing. You need something that you can convert to an object.”
“Like what?” Ava asked curiously.
“Well take cryomancers—an ice mage—for instance,” He started to write on a board.
“They can’t make ice out of nothing, they need water to freeze into ice. This water can be liquid or vapor. So even though there may not be water around them, they could still create ice from the water vapor that’s in the air.”
“Oh, I get it,” Ava remarked. Then, she asked “So where did magic come from?”
He paced around, “Well, that’s still a mystery. People have come up with theories, but none have definitively proven magic’s origin. All we do know is that magic has existed as long as people have existed.”
“Hmm, so can everyone use magic?”
“Well it would be nice,” He said. “But there are people who just can’t use magic. There are cases where people could use magic through extensive training, but those cases are few and far between.”
After he explained the basic fundamentals of magic, he further elaborated on its limitations, “People can use magic by spending bodily energy. It's like the way we use energy to move, we're converting that energy into movement or in this case—magic."
"Huh, so can people get sleepy when they use magic?"
He patted her on her shoulder, "That's an excellent observation Ava." He then explained, "Yes, people can get tired from using magic. It's like if you run around too much, eventually you'll get tired. If people use magic too much, they'll eventually get fatigued. So, skilled mages train to minimize their energy usage when using magic."
They continued along with the rest of the lesson as Ava inquisitively asked more and more questions. Eventually though, their time soon ran out as Teros needed to attend to another student of his. Ava, with her bountiful curiosity, asked him about who his other student was.
He replied, “Oh. She’s actually the same age as you.”
“Wait really? Can I meet her?” She asked enthusiastically.
“Sure. Next week, I’m planning to take both of you to the Doxatos archives to read up about magic. You two can meet up there.”
The lesson ended and Ava went back to her mother while Teros went to attend his other student. She told her mother about all the things she learnt and also Teros’s plan to take her to the archives. Her mother was very happy for her. This event would not only mark the beginning of Ava’s journey through magic, but also her first time out of the estate without being accompanied by her mother.
As the heir to the throne, she would get a lot of attention, but luckily, even though the general public knew that the queen had a child, they have never actually seen what the child looked like. Ava’s mother wanted to keep her hidden away from the public as to retain her privacy. But of course, she wasn’t going to imprison her in the estate. She would let Ava out, but with the accompaniment of herself or a servant, so they’d just look like any other wealthy family in the kingdom. She was excited to finally go out into the wide, open world.
Chapter 2 : When Ice Met Fire
The next week arrived and Ava couldn’t hold in her excitement. She kept talking about it all week to everyone she knew. This excitement was mostly centered around meeting this other student that Teros was talking about. She was already imagining what they might be like. Why did she decide to get a tutor? What were her interests? Where did she live? All of these questions were whirling around her mind. Eventually though, the time had come. Teros went by the estate to pick up Ava. She saw that he was by himself and asked, “Where’s the other student?”
He replied, “Oh, she’s already at the archives,” while clarifying, “Her father escorted her.” After that, they both went along their way to the archives. Ava couldn’t wait for it and was yammering about what she wanted to do there.
“What kind of books are there?” she asked.
“Well, almost anything you could think of. They have almost every genre of fiction and nonfiction, along with research done by scholars.”
After some walking, they managed to get to the Doxatos archives. It was a rectangular building made of limestone with marble columns that were surrounding it to uphold the roof. The roof was a triangular prism made out of marble with ornate embellishments carved into it. There was also a dome that looked to be in the center of the building. It was massively overshadowing the other buildings surrounding it. Inside, it was just as mesmerizing. It was incredibly spacious and the center of the building appeared to have a skylight that was on the dome. It was encircled by a beautiful mural depicting the starry night. They both took in the atmosphere while they were going to meet up with the other students
The student in question was in the magic section, immersed in a book. She looked up and saw them, “Hey! Over here.” They looked around and saw her. She was a pale girl with white-hair and maroon-eyes. Her hands were waving around, showing the also maroon sweater that she was wearing.
When they got to her, Teros told them to introduce each other, “Now girls, can you tell each other a bit about yourselves?”
The girl was up first, “Hi! My name’s Sayuki. I’m ten years old.” She was an energetic little girl, which excited Ava even more.
“Hi Sayuki!” Ava said, “I’m Ava and I’m going to be your new study partner.” Even though this declaration was pretty bold, Sayuki wasn’t bothered by it. In fact, she seemed to appreciate it.
“Nice to meet you Ava! I’m sure we’re gonna have a good time.”
They started reading through books, finding more tidbits about magic. One book read, “While an individual is capable of using multiple types of magic, they usually are only adept at one type of magic. This is usually decided at conception, a child is more likely to be adept at a type of magic that their parents are adept at. That doesn’t mean that children whose parents can’t use magic, don’t have the ability to use magic. It’s just less likely.”
This book got them asking about each other’s parents. Sayuki quizzed Ava on her parents, “So, can your parents use magic?”
“Oh. My mother can’t,” she exclaimed, “But I don't know about my father. I never really got a chance to ask him because he’s always out exploring the world.”
“Your father’s an explorer?!” Sayuki was surprised. “Then he must know some things about magic. He probably visited a lot of places that use magic.”
“Maybe. I’ll ask him the next time he gets home.” Ava then pivoted to asking about Sayuki’s parents, “Well then, what about your parents?”
“Oh.” Sayuki sighed a bit, “Well my parents aren’t as cool as yours. My father is an anthropologist.”
“Anthro…pologist?” Ava stuttered, “What’s that?”
“Oh. It’s someone who studies people. My father is a cultural anthropologist, so he studies different people’s cultures.”
“Huh that’s pretty cool. What are you talking about?”
“I guess it’s interesting, but he never really experiences any of these cultures. He just observes them, unlike your father.”
“Oh come one!” Ava pats Sayuki’s shoulder, “Your parents can’t be that boring, I mean what about your mother.”
“Hugggh…” she sighed, “What about her? I don’t even know where she is.”
“Wait,” Ava paused, “What do you mean?”
“Yeah. She disappeared when I was three and I've never heard from her since.”
“Oh…Uh…Sorry for bringing that up. Let’s–just move on from this topic.”
After that awkward conversation, they perused through the books and found an interesting one. It was a guidebook on how to become an official mage. It read, “To become an officially recognized mage, you need to first partake in an exam held by the International Mage Federation (IMF). After taking the exam, you will be assigned a rank based on how you did. Then—and only then—will you become an official mage.”
They were really excited to learn how to become an actual mage. In fact, they were so excited that they both went running to Teros and asked if they could take the exam right then and there. Of course, Teros had to chuckle, “You can’t take the exam yet. You guys are still learning the basics. Besides, you two aren’t even old enough to take the exam. You need to be at least seventeen years old to take the exam.”
And from that day forward, both Ava and Sayuki had made it their goal to take the exam and become great mages. They asked him if they could somehow bring the book with them for guidance. He obliged and bought two copies of the book with money out of his own pocket. He gave them each a copy and they were visibly shaking with excitement. They would spend the next seven years diligently studying magic to eventually ace the exam.
Through this process, they discovered strengths and weaknesses. Ava was very bookish, able to read through dense books with ease and meticulously absorb the information. On the other hand, Sayuki had trouble reading dense writing. Despite this though, she found out that she was much better at putting what she learned in practice than just reading about the theories. In fact, Sayuki had cast her first spell before Ava did.
She was struggling to understand the mechanisms of freezing water. She knew how water froze, she just didn’t know how to do it. Until, she remembered how heat worked. Heat is produced by moving particles in an object. If she could stop the water particles from moving using her own bodily energy, then the water’s heat would lower—thus freezing it. She wanted to give it a shot and picked up a bowl of water. She put her hand on the surface and concentrated on trying to stop the water particles from moving. Eventually, the palm of her hand started to feel cool. She kept going until eventually the water started freezing. The freezing was slow at first, but it ended up getting faster as more of the water got frozen. All of the water ended up freezing and Sayuki was overjoyed, but also felt a bit tired. This was because her body wasn’t used to magic yet and she would need to train more to control it.
In contrast, Ava was trying to light a candle. Like Sayuki, she also remembered how heat worked. All she needed to do was heat up the air surrounding the candle’s wick so that it would combust. But somehow, she had a more difficult time getting it to work than Sayuki. It could’ve been because she overthinked it. She was focusing on insignificant things like where to place her hand? Should she be holding the candle? What happens if she gets burnt by the flame? All these tiny little minute questions that weren’t really relevant to the task at hand, plagued her mind. This caused her to delay casting the spell. Eventually though, she was able to focus and finally light the candle. Although she is meticulous, she’s prone to overthinking simple problems.
Their ways of thinking would soon be put to the test. Later on in their journey through learning magic, Teros would have a plan to test their abilities.
Chapter 3 : Melting Point
Jumping ahead 4 years, both Ava and Sayuki had turned 14 years old. They had a much better understanding of magic which led to Sayuki discovering her mastery. A mastery is a type of magic that a person is most proficient at. Through trial and error, trying out different types of magic and assessing how proficient she is at them, she finally landed on cryomancy. Meanwhile, Ava hadn’t found her mastery yet. She tried various different types of magic, but found that she was similarly decent at each of them. This wasn’t an uncommon case. There were loads of people who didn't really have a mastery. It didn’t stop them from becoming a good mage, it just prevented them from reaching further beyond a “good mage”. Most great mages had at least one mastery in their repertoire.
This disheartened Ava, who felt that she was falling behind or even worse—failing. But Teros made sure to remind her that most people don’t immediately find their mastery. It could take years to find it and that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t find it, it just takes patience. He reassured her that she’ll find her mastery eventually. After that, Teros instructed the girls to follow him. He took them to an empty field that was located outside of the city. It was pretty barren with not a lot of vegetation—just dirt. They were confused as to why they were there. He then explained that they were here to put what they have learned to the test. He touched the dirt on the right side of the field and it started to vibrate. The dirt then started to rise from the ground, creating a giant statue that resembled a person. He then did the same thing on the left side.
It took them a while, but eventually it dawned on them that these statues were going to be their test dummies. Teros explained to them, “All right. Here’s what you two need to do. You’ll each be assigned a statue that you need to completely destroy to pass this test.” He then clarified, “It doesn’t matter who finishes first. This isn’t a competition,” knowing full well that these two would make it a competition. These two were pumped for it. They instinctively get into their positions, Ava on the right and Sayuki on the left. Ava looked like she was thinking of a plan to tackle this, while Sayuki looked like she was ready to get on with it. Teros stepped back to a reasonable distance, then gave the signal to start.
Immediately, Sayuki went in for a punch. Augmented by her cryomancy, she was able to make her fists hard as ice. She punched away its legs, causing it to fall over. Then she started chipping away at it, making dent after dent. Meanwhile, Ava has yet to make a move. She was too busy thinking of what she might want to do instead of making any progress. In an effort to understand the structure of the statue a bit better, she tapped on it and it turned out that it was hollow. This gave her an idea.
Over by Sayuki’s statue, she was making good progress on the statue. She took a quick glance at what Ava was doing and saw that she was touching the ground. This was because she was trying to draw in the groundwater into the statue’s interior. In theory, if the entire statue kept filling up with water, then eventually it would run out of space and start spilling out. Plus, the dirt would eventually start to turn into mud, making it more unstable. Sayuki didn’t figure out Ava’s plans as she was going at it. Eventually, there was only a little bit left of Sayuki’s statue. But over at Ava's statue, she successfully managed to fill it with water and holes started to form on it at a rapid pace. In response, Sayuki picked up the pace. She went as quickly as she could, while Ava’s statue was quickly eroding away. They both were neck and neck. It could have been anyone’s game. Ava was also trying to hurry it up as Sayuki only had a couple more bits to go. Both of their statues were almost completely gone. It looked like a close game as they both finished destroying their statues.
They finished at almost the exact same time and went to Teros to confirm who finished first. Realizing that either way, one of them was going to be unhappy, he said, “Well. It was too close to call. You both did good anyways.”
Both of them were unhappy at his answer and chose to debate each other on who won. “Clearly, I’m the winner,” Sayuki declared.
Ava rebutted with, “No you didn’t. I was the one who finished first.”
This went on for a while until eventually, Teros calmed them down, “Girls, calm down. Like I said, it’s not a competition and you both did an excellent job. Sayuki, your speed and strength at which you destroyed that statue was amazing. Ava, your idea to fill the statue with water to destroy it, was ingenious. All that matters is that you both did it in your own way.” Even though this stopped them from bickering, they still were a bit acrimonious about it.
A few weeks after the test, Sayuki came to Ava with an offer. She offered to settle the score with a duel. The duel was to take place in the same field that they had the test and it would happen at dusk. The conditions for the duel were as follows—They both would have a crystal on their bodies that could detect every time they get hit; Every time they get hit the crystal cracks a bit and given enough hits, it would eventually break; One of them needed to break the other’s crystal first to win.
Ava wholeheartedly accepted this offer and started to come up with a strategy to win this duel. They both had their own strengths and weaknesses that could impact this duel. Ava was very good at casting long ranged magic, while Sayuki excelled at close range. This meant that if Ava kept her distance she would have no problem dealing with her. But, she also knew that Sayuki would expect this and try to get as close to her as possible—as quickly as possible. This meant that what Ava needed to do was slow her down, so she couldn’t get to her so easily. While Ava was thinking of her plan, Sayuki was coming up with a plan of her own. Similar to Ava’s thought process, she was also anticipating that Ava would try to prevent her from getting close. To combat this, she planned to move in an erratic pattern so that Ava would have a difficult time trying to target her. With both of their plans set in stone, they ventured out to the location of the duel.
It was the middle of dusk as the sky was a lovely gradient of blue and orange. The girls were on standby—with their crystals on hand—waiting to start the duel. They both stood on opposite ends of the field as they prepared themselves. Silence took hold of the field for a brief—fleeting moment until the hour had arrived. They rushed to each other’s position as Ava immediately cast a gust of wind towards Sayuki. Luckily, she managed to dodge it and lunge towards her. Ava was caught off guard and unfortunately got hit. The crystal cracked, leaving only 2 hits left.
“Don’t think you would get me that easily,” Sayuki snidely remarked.
“Ok then,” Ava smiled and then splashed water towards Sayuki’s feet, “How about this?!” and immediately froze it, “Looks like you got cold feet.”
Sayuki couldn’t move. She started to punch away at the ice, but Ava quickly hit her with a gust of wind, leaving Sayuki with only 2 hits left. They both had 2 hits left as Sayuki started her next strike by rushing towards Ava in an erratic pattern which made it hard for Ava to aim at her. Eventually, Sayuki managed to get a hit in—leaving Ava with only 1 hit left. But Ava immediately jumped backwards and started encircling her with water which she then used to create a barrier of ice to surround Sayuki, preventing her from knowing where she is coming.
“Hey! This is wildly unfair!” Sayuki protested.
Ava rebutted, “Hey it’s not my fault you couldn’t walk a couple steps to the side.”
She was expecting Ava to punch a hole through the ice to hit her, but instead Ava flung a bolt of water from over the ice and hit her—which left her with 1 hit left as well. Sayuki punched through the ice which collapsed the barrier. Both of their crystals were on the verge of breaking, one hit was all that it took. All of the ice that was created melted and left a bunch of water on the field. Sayuki hadn’t got the chance to use her mastery, but all of this water gave her an idea.
She started to charge Ava once again, but this time, every time Ava sent an attack, she blocked it by creating an ice wall from the water. She kept doing this until she got close to Ava, but Ava was hoping for this to happen. Every time Sayuki broke one of the ice walls, Ava was actually creating slush from the ice. She was gathering all of the slush using the wind into a pile and was forming a ball. Without Sayuki noticing, Ava flung the ball into her, hitting her and ending the match. Sayuki collapsed as she wallowed in her defeat.
Afterwards, they both sat down near the field to convene. Despite her defeat, Sayuki congratulated Ava, “Ok, I’ll admit that last move was pretty smart.”
It was a close match and even Ava herself admitted, “Thanks, you weren’t so bad yourself. If you've noticed it, you could’ve won.”
It had been 3 years since that day. The girls were 17 years old and finally eligible for the Magical Aptitude Exam (MAE). This exam evaluated the participant’s magical knowledge and abilities and gave them a rank. The ranks going from lowest to highest were: C, B, A, S, and L. These ranks are officially recognized by the International Mage Federation (IMF). If a participant already had a rank and they did better than the last time they took the test, then their rank would be promoted. These ranks would determine a mage’s future prospects, like getting jobs or into higher education. People would want to employ high ranking mages. The exam would be held at the IMF’s headquarters—located in Myskis—where hundreds of participants from all around the world would gather to take the exam. The girls were about to take this exam which made them excited, but also deeply anxious. Would they be able to succeed? Or would they be deeply disappointed?
Chapter 4 : Developing
It was a quiet day in the kingdom of Nattur as the sun was showering the land with its light; the wind swept gently; and the air was fresh—pure of pollutants. But all was not calm in Nattur. In a home located in the forests near the capital city of Riogh, was an elven woman—named Aine—who was about to give birth to her son. She was with her family and loved ones as they assisted her in the delivery. Although it was an arduous process, she tried to keep calm during all of it. After what felt like years, her son was finally born. He was swaddled in a blanket and she held him while looking lovely into his green eyes and said to him, “Welcome to the world—Dryw.”
Six years have passed since the birth of Dryw. He lived happily in his family’s idyllic home in the forest, away from the bustle of the city. Here, Dryw would go about his day with no worries—playing outside; breathing the fresh air as he napped under a tree. Often his mother would join him outside. Aine was a gentle and kind soul who clearly cared deeply about her son. Under the shimmering rays of sunlight, she'd play songs on her lyre for him. Her countenance was radiant as the sunlight reflected off her warm-pale skin and shining golden hair. She always dreamt of becoming a musician, but her parents never really supported it as they wanted her to be an academic. So in an effort of compromise, she studied the next thing she was connected to—nature. She majored in biophilic philosophies in order to better understand the connection between people and nature. While learning, she discovered various different philosophies that stuck with her—even now.
As a parent, she would instill these philosophies onto her son. They would walk around in the forests in an attempt to connect with nature. This experience made Dryw really appreciate the beauty of nature. Sometimes, they would go foraging for plants to bring back for various uses—like for food or to decorate their home. They weren’t isolated from civilization as they had a clear route to Riogh from their house. They just preferred to be self-sufficient with their resources. Of course when Dryw eventually enrolled in primary school, they would go to the city more often. Dryw’s father—Fionn—would usually be the one to walk him to school.
At school, he usually kept to himself. He had a close group of friends, but none of them were particularly close with him. Dryw saw school as more of a place to study than to socialize. But soon he found another kid who was quite like him. This kid was one of the high-ranking students at school and also kept to himself. His name was Morty. He was a pale kid with dark-purple hair and eyes. The teachers thought it would be good for these two to know each other a little—considering their similar dispositions. They were a bit hesitant at first, but soon it would be revealed that these two might actually get along.
Dryw awkwardly greeted him, “Hi I’m Dryw. Uh…what’s your name?”
Morty also awkwardly replied, “Uh…hey my name’s Morty. Nice to meet you.” He then asked, “So, why do you keep to yourselves a lot?”
“Um…it’s mostly because I can’t really connect with everyone else. Their lives—I just can’t really relate to them.”
“Oh, guess I sort of feel the same way. But, it’s mostly because I feel like the odd one out in our class.”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“Well first off, I’m the only fairy in my class.”
“Really? I couldn’t tell.”
“It’s because my wings haven’t grown yet. You usually get them when you’re older.” He then continued, “Anyway besides that, unlike everyone else, my father never has the time to pick me up because he's too busy with his work.”
“What does your father do that makes him so busy?”
“I don’t really know. I usually just see him with a lot of papers.” He then continued again, “Then, there’s also me being the top ranking student in our class. I sometimes worry that they secretly hate me for having a higher rank than them.”
“Well don’t be worried, if they do hate you, then there’s really nothing they could do to you.” He affirmed, “I’m sure that most of the kids in our class don’t hate you.”
“Thanks Dryw,” He smiled a bit, “You know. We got along a lot better than I thought.”
Four years had passed since their meeting. Dryw and Morty had gotten closer and closer as he would regularly visit Dryw’s home to hang out. But strangely enough, Dryw hasn’t ever been to Morty’s home. Every time he suggested it, Morty would decline. He said that his father doesn’t like guests. This didn’t stop Dryw from trying though. One day, he decided to sneakily follow Morty home to see where he lived. He followed him all the way to the outskirts of the city and there it was—Morty’s home. It was a quaint abode with a fence surrounding it. The exterior was a bit dark and all of the windows were covered with curtains. Dryw waited until Morty went inside to knock on the door. He heard a voice say, “Coming.” The door opened and he saw an elven man, around the same age as his parents—with lavender skin, puce eyes, and messy white shoulder–length hair. “Oh…Who are you?” the man asked.
Assuming this was Morty’s father—Dryw replied, “Hello mr. My name’s Dryw and I’m here to see Morty.”
“Oh ok.” Morty’s father let him in, “Come on in.” He then called for Morty, “Morty! Your friend Dryw is here.”
Morty was in his room—surprised at his arrival, “What?! Wait, hold on. I’m changing my clothes.”
“You can wait over there,” Morty’s father directed him to the sofa.
Morty’s father interjected, “It’s Victor—Mr. Victor.”
Dryw sat on the sofa while observing the interior. It was a lot brighter than the exterior and decorated pretty nicely. In front of where Dryw was sitting—was the kitchen. There was a hallway right next to it, which he assumed led to Morty’s room. Soon enough, Morty walked out of that hallway and greeted him, “Hey. What are you doing here?”
“I just wanted to come hang out.”
Morty sat down with him, “But, how did you find out where I lived? I never really told you.”
“Oh.” He nervously lied, “I asked one of the teachers where you lived.”
“Ok. So what do you want to do?” Morty then suggested, “Oh hey let’s continue this in my room.”
They both went into the hallway where Morty’s room was on the left side. When they entered the room it was pretty dark, so Morty turned on the lights. The walls were painted black and there were no windows—which explained the darkness. Morty’s bed was on the far–right side. On the left were a couple of small bookshelves. Other than that, the room seemed pretty empty. In some places, the wooden floor would creak if someone stepped on it.
They both sat on the bed and chatted a bit. Morty asked what Dryw’s been up to. Dryw then recounted his experience in learning archery. His dad was a carpenter and one of the things he would make were bows. In addition to making them, he was pretty good at using them. He would sometimes practice outside and Dryw would watch. This led to Dryw becoming more enamored with archery and he wanted to learn how to do it. So, his dad agreed to teach him the ropes. First, he taught him about the parts of a bow. A bow was divided into 2 sections—The wooden arc and the string. In the middle of the arc is where you would put the arrow. The arrow would be placed between the arc and the string. Then, you would pull back the string and finally—release the arrow. On his first time, the target was placed relatively close by to make it easier. He—of course—hit the target. The target was then placed further to increase the difficulty. He pulled back the string a bit more and managed to hit the target again—so on and so forth.
Although he didn’t always manage to hit the bullseye, he was able to hit the target itself which was still good for a beginner. He just needed to improve his form so that he could aim better. His dad showed him some techniques to improve his aim. First off is to line your body up perpendicular to the target so that, if you drew an imaginary line from yourself to the target—the line would go straight across; next is to stand upright and place your feet shoulder-width apart so that—when you pull the string—your arms and shoulders would form a "T” shape; finally when releasing the arrow, relax the fingers on your string hand so that, the bow would leave your fingers with as little slowdown and interference as possible. Doing these techniques, he improved at a fast rate. Day by day—his aim would get better and better.
Meanwhile, Morty hasn’t really got much to say because his life was pretty mundane. Although, there was one encounter that might’ve been of interest. A couple of weeks ago—while he was walking back home—he met a peculiar woman. It looked like she was carrying around a cart full of jars and other stuff. Suddenly, one of the cart’s wheels got dislodged and conveniently—he managed to grab it. He brought back the wheel to the woman and she thanked him, “Thanks kid.” Then she grabbed something out from a pocket on her cream-colored maxi dress, “Here, have this.”
“Oh. You don’t have to,” he tried to decline, taking what looked to be a glass orb of some kind.
The woman insisted, “Don’t worry. I have plenty of these things.”
“Oh ok,” he grabbed it awkwardly. He took a closer look at it and saw that it had a preserved-dead-moth inside of it. Before he could ask anything about it, the woman had already vanished.
After Morty was done recounting his encounter, Dryw went to go to the bathroom. While he was doing that, he realized that it was getting late. Because Morty’s room had no windows, he didn’t notice how late it was getting. He quickly went to bid farewell to Morty and return home. Before leaving, Morty wanted to give him something—which were gloves. Morty noticed that the palm of Dryw’s hand had marks from pulling his bowstring. Dryw thanked him and went on his way.
Chapter 5 : Light Above the Clouds
Three years had since passed. Dryw was 13 years old. He had been diligently training at archery in those three years. His aim has improved vastly and now, he’s even capable of hitting moving targets. All seemed to be going well for this intrepid boy but—that would soon change. One faithful month, he noticed that his mother was coughing unusually frequently. He chalked it up to dust or other irritants, but it wasn’t going away—in fact, it got worse. It wasn’t just coughing either, she also started having shortness of breath—which impeded any physically taxing activities. It sometimes would be too much for her, so she needed to lie down for a while. It was clear she was struck with some sort of respiratory illness. They went to a cleric to see what ailment she might have. They told the symptoms she was experiencing—excessive coughing and shortness of breath—to the cleric. Additionally, she sometimes felt like her throat was closing up. The symptoms suggested that it was an infection in the lungs, so the cleric prescribed an antibacterial tea. This tea contained a chemical that could break down pathogens.
She would drink the tea almost everyday and unfortunately—it didn’t seem to make a difference. Her symptoms were still prevalent which impeded her from doing daily activities. To help aid in his mother’s burden, Dryw took up a lot of the housework. He would cook meals, clean the house, and wash clothes. His father also helped him. When the tea wasn’t working, they went to see the cleric again. The cleric was stumped on what this illness might be. Whatever it was—it hasn’t been documented. Although it disturbed her everyday life, her symptoms were not life-threatening. She wouldn’t die from this, but her quality of life would surely deteriorate. This gave cold comfort to the family. All that they could do was to make sure that she was as comfortable as she could be.
A year has passed since Dryw’s mother got ill. Her condition hasn’t gotten any better nor has it gotten any worse. She still couldn’t do any physically taxing activities as she needed a lot of help. Luckily, Dryw and his father gladly helped out with any trouble she had. But seeing his mother disheveled—a shell of her former self—really impacted his psyche. He dropped out of school to take care of his mother full-time. He neglected to talk with any of his friends and also Morty—which really strained their friendship. To get his mind off of things, he would walk around the forest—while foraging. On one of his walks, he managed to stumble upon somebody who appeared to be caught in a net. They looked to be an elven woman wearing a cream-colored maxi dress that was tangled up in the net. She yelled, “Hey kid! Can you get me down from here—I’m a bit…stuck.”
Fortunately, he brought his bow with him. He took an arrow; placed it on the bowstring; aimed it at the rope that was holding the net; and fired. Unfortunately, he realized too late that there was nothing to cushion her fall. She hit the ground with an audible thud. It didn’t seem like she was hurt as she picked herself up.
Dryw quickly ran to her aid and apologized, “I’m sorry! I forgot there was nothing for you to cushion the fall.”
“Don’t worry,” she grimaced, “I’ll be fine. I’ve survived worse.” She then pointed at a cart nearby, “Hey can you help me get that cart? It has some stuff that I need.”
He hastily grabbed the cart and brought it to her. It was filled with jars and other stuff. These items seemed to strike a chord with him as it reminded him of something. He tried thinking about it until he met back up with the woman. Seeing her dress finally made him remember. She was the same woman that Morty had met. He thought that he could ask who she was, “Hey. By any chance—can I get your name?”
“Oh,” she seemed surprised, “It’s Francesca.”
“What are you doing in the forest?”
“Well I actually lived a couple of ways from here.” She then pointed, “My house is just over that way. Feel free to come by—if you want to.”
As if on queue, water started dropping down as it started to rain. It looked like he was about to take her up on her offer. They started speeding towards the house, but the rain started getting heavier. Eventually, he told her to hold his hand so that they could both run faster. She was confused at first, but came around to it. When she held his hand, a sudden surge of wind enveloped both of their feet. A sense of lightness permeated through their bodies as they ran at an abnormally fast pace. They dashed through the forest while avoiding obstacles along their path. She had no time to ask questions as they managed to make it to the house in record time. She was—understandably—shocked at this and realized that there may be more to this boy than she had first thought.
They arrived at the house. The exterior wasn’t exactly welcoming. It was all-black with shingle siding that looked like it was worn. The house looked to be about two stories and had a central tower that overlooked the surrounding forests. Unlike the buildings in Riogh—that were designed to blend into nature—this house undoubtedly contrasted nature. As they walked up the patio to the entrance, they were met with a big dark wooden arched-double-door. The door opened and they were greeted by a young elven man. He had a dark complexion; a white ponytail; and red eyes. He was wearing a black suit with a red vest that almost matched his eye color. He greeted her with the utmost respect, “Welcome home Mrs. van Helsing.”
“Hello Seirbhiuse,” she greeted him, “We have a guest joining us today. Make sure he feels welcomed.”
“Yes Mrs. van Helsing,” he bowed, “With pleasure.” He proceeded to take Dryw’s green coat that got soaked by the rain and hung it on the rack. Then, he showed the way to the living room—which was on the left of the door. Going through an arched-doorway, they ended up in the living room that was extensively opulent. The walls were blood-red with dark wooden accents. The furniture matched it—being made of dark wood with red accents. Dryw was astonished at this opulence—only the wealthy could afford it. He sat down on the red velvet couch, trying not to dirty up any of the expensive looking furniture.
As he was settling in, he saw a girl and a boy standing by the doorway. They seemed to be siblings—about the same age. They were pale with dark hair and burgundy eyes. The girl had pigtails while the boy had short hair. They both were staring at him for an uncomfortably long period of time until Mrs. van Helsing remarked, “Hey you two, don’t just stare at our guest.” They both scurried away down the hallway as she entered the room. She sat down right across from him and asked him, “Sorry about my kids. So, what brings you to the forest?”
Dryw looked a bit down, “Well. I just needed to take my mind off of things.”
“Off of what exactly?”
Seirbhiuse then entered the room bringing tea. He started serving them while they continued their conversation. Dryw answered with a sigh, “My mother is sick and she hasn’t been getting better. I’ve been taking care of her for a while now and I think taking a walk through the forest could help ease my mind a little.”
She nodded, “Oh. I understand. A sick loved-one can really take a toll on you mentally.”
He then changed the subject, “So,can I ask you something?”
“Yes, what is it?”
“Who exactly are you?”
She chuckled, “Oh me? Well I’m just a random woman who lives in the forest.”
“You can’t just be any old woman,” he interjected, “You must have some amount of wealth to afford all this opulent furnishing.”
“Well this house belonged to my family. It was old and rundown, so they decided to renovate it and gave it to me as a parting gift.”
“My family and I haven't always seen eye to eye. It looked like they finally got tired of me and decided to banish me to the forest,” she said playfully.
Dryw had no comment to make of this. He instead remarked, “By the way, we’ve been talking about each other for all this time—yet we don’t even know each other's names.”
“Oh. Well then. My name’s Francesca van Helsing—but you can call me Francesca.”
“My name’s Dryw.”
She then proceeded to graciously offer any help with his mom if he needed it. He retorted that there wasn’t much that she could do. His mother’s illness was a mystery that even stumped most clerics they went to. There wasn’t anything—short of a miracle—that could alleviate her illness. But, she had a suggestion, “Maybe there is some way to cure her illness.”
Dryw wasn’t buying it, “Really? How?”
“I myself don’t know much about medicine, but I know of a place that does.” She then stood up and walked around the room a bit, “The Institute of Magic Medicine is what I’m talking about. They focus on how magic can be used to create treatments for ailments.”
He seemed skeptical about it, so she reassured that the institute has actually created real treatments that are currently being used. Even though this may have slightly convinced him, he was still wondering how he can get them to make a treatment for his mother. She said, “They aren’t going to be ones that’ll make it. You’ll be the one who’ll make it with their help.”
“Are you joking? I don’t know a thing about medicine—much less magic.”
“Well you can always learn and I’ll happily teach you.”
“Wait? You can do magic?”
“Of course,” she answered. She then went to a drawer and picked up a bone from it. She held it with both hands and started to apply her magic to it. Gradually, it started to morph into something. He couldn’t tell what it was, but eventually it was revealed that it had turned into a candlestick holder. “Convinced yet?” she retorted. If he wasn’t sure about it before, then witnessing this feat in action has definitely convinced him. Just then, the rain had also stopped outside. She said that they could start tomorrow if he was up to it. Dryw was very excited as this presented to him a glimmer of hope that he desperately needed.
The next day had arrived and Dryw was eager to get started on learning magic—so much so that he arrived at her house really early. Fortunately, she was an early riser and they immediately started. She didn’t want to bore him with all of the theories and went straight to the point, “Alright. First things first, you kind of already know how to use magic.”
“Huh?!” Dryw was shocked at this remark. Indeed, he did already know how to use magic. This was shown when he and Francesca dashed through the forest at breakneck speed. He didn’t realize it back then, but he was actually using anemomancy—which was wind magic. People don’t need to intentionally seek out how to use magic, they can just discover it by chance. Another instance of this occurring is when one time, Dryw was practicing archery as usual until he suddenly managed to fire an arrow that was way faster than any arrow he had fired before. This arrow was actually propelled using anemomancy. Dryw already had the ability to use magic, he just needed to learn how to control it.
Francesca started off by telling him to apply magic to what he was already good at—archery. In archery, wind would usually be a hindrance because it makes the arrow drift away. However, with anemomancy Dryw could use the wind to his advantage. Instead of blowing the arrow away, he could use the wind to propel the arrow forward with great speed. Thinking he ought to try it out, Dryw tried to give it a shot. Francesca instructed him to shoot a tree from a lengthy distance. Normally it would take a lot of force to make the arrow cross that distance, but with anemomancy, it could easily travel that distance in a short amount of time. He drew his bow and aimed for the tree while she was guiding him, “Imagine that the arrow was your body running through the forest. Channel that same energy into the arrow so that it can cut through the air and hit that tree.”
He stretched the bowstring back and focused—holding his breath to keep himself steady. The air around started to concentrate on the tip of the arrow as he released it. The arrow immediately started to pick up speed as it flew through the air. It hit the tree in no time—leaving a dent on it. The wind didn’t only increase the speed of the arrow, it also increased the force of the arrow. Dryw was stunned that he managed to pull it off. This officially marked the beginning of his journey through magic.
After he got better control of his magic, Francesca decided to ease him into more theory-based magical knowledge. To enroll in the Institute of Magic Medicine, he would need to have an official rank—assigned by the International Mage Federation. Then—and only then—will his enrollment be considered. To succeed in getting this rank, he would not only need practical abilities in magic, but also knowledge on magic. Luckily, Dryw enjoyed studying. It was one of the only reasons he went to school, which has helped him academically.
Three years had passed since his fateful encounter with Francesca. He was 17 years old and eligible to participate in the Magical Aptitude Exam. He had been practicing magic and learning about it nonstop. He felt well-prepared to take the exam. The day before he set off to Doxatos—where the exam was held, he spoke to his mother about it, “Mother. Tomorrow I’ll be setting off to Doxatos to partake in the exams. May I humbly request your blessings?”
“Of course Dryw,” she remarked, “I hope that you’ll do exceptionally well in this exam so that you can return—a great mage.” With her blessings, he set off the next day towards—Doxatos.
Chapter 6 : Manufactured
There were three main landmasses on Gaia—Kentros, Metallis, and Nankyoku. Kentros contained the kingdoms of—Nattur, Easifatan, and Doxatos. It was the biggest landmass in Gaia, just next to Nankyoku. Nankyoku was a landmass entirely of ice that only housed various different native tribes. No centralized government has been put in place—unlike Ferrum. The Republic of Ferrum was a nation located on Metallis—an archipelago. It was the newest civilization to pop on Gaia, formally existing for only 700 years out of the 5000 years that civilization has been recorded to exist. Metallis was widely uninhabited for thousands of years because it was assumed that it lacked any natural resources. The soil wasn’t as fertile and there were not many flora or fauna. People had thought that it was unfit to live on until suddenly—1000 years ago—settlements started to pop up in Metallis that were inhabited by a new group of people—the Automatons.
They were much different than the other species on Gaia. For starters, though they resembled humans—they had one major distinction. They were made mostly of inorganic matter. Most lifeforms on Gaia are made of organic matter—carbon, but the automatons had little to no carbon in their bodies. This made them more durable, having no defined lifespan. Although, they could still technically die. You see, automatons also needed energy like any other lifeform on Gaia. If they run out of it, they would be “deactivated”. This didn’t mean that they were permanently dead though. When a deactivated automaton is recharged with energy, it would reactivate again—though there will be complications. Depending on how long they’ve been deactivated, they may not remember about their life before. Certain things—like personality traits—might be retained, but things like memory were harder to carry over.
One such case was with a female automaton. The year was 4983 and a body had been discovered at an abandoned mining site—located northeast of the capital. She was presumed to have perished in a mining accident. The people who retrieved her were Fabricators. While collecting resources, they managed to come around the abandoned mining site and discovered the body. They were in charge of creating new automatons and reactivating old ones. Automatons were not able to reproduce, but this wasn’t really an issue since they didn’t have a limited lifespan that would require them to create new individuals for the species' survival. Fabricators were tasked to create new individuals when the population got too low. Because of this, Ferrum—and Metallis as a whole—has the smallest population on Gaia. Creating new automatons took a lot of resources, so fabricators tend to reactivate old ones—like this one for instance.
Her body was retrieved from the mine and sent to the Seminarium. It was a place where the creation and rebirth of automatons took place. It also acts as a place for them to live in the first few years of their activation. They placed her body on a table and connected it with wires. They sent pulses of electricity through the wires and into her body. Little by little, she started to reactivate. Her body started to generate heat which indicated that the internal engine was working again. The internal engine was a vital component to the automaton body. It converted fuel that the body consumes into energy and by doing this, it generated heat. Then, she started breathing in air, but not for the same reasons that other lifeforms breathe air. Inside of her body were rotating vanes that drew in cooler air and expelled hot air. This was done to regulate the body’s heat.
As time went on, she showed signs of movement. This meant that her cortex was running again. The cortex was analogous to the brain, it was the center of operations for a lot of sensory, motoric, emotional and linguistic capabilities. It did this by converting the energy that was produced by the internal engine. Eventually, her eyes started to open as she gave a look of bewilderment. She looked worried as she started to mumble gibberish to the fabricators. They told her that everything was going to be alright and they just needed a bit longer to finish.
When they were done, she was escorted to the Scrinium—the place where new automatons get their identification. Because she was deactivated, she had a life before that. One of the people working there pulled up her old identification—her name was Aurelia; her citizen number’s 17601840; and she used to work for a mining guild—as a mining technician. She had disappeared 10 years ago when a mining site —she presumably was working at—collapsed. After a rescue team searched through the site, they weren’t able to find her. This was odd considering the fact that she was found outside of the site, not inside the caves.
She was asked if she could remember anything from her past life—but she couldn’t recall anything. Given that she wasn’t able to recall anything from her past life, she was given two decisions—either to reintegrate back into her old life or start anew. Weighing in the fact that she didn’t recognize anything about her old life, she decided to start a new one. She felt that it was the best decision, considering that most of the people she used to know had probably forgotten about her. So, she would spend the next few years trying to build her new life.
First, she needed a place to stay. Obviously, since she didn’t have a job yet and thus couldn’t afford her own place—she lived at the Cunabium. It was a housing complex for new automatons to get a footing in their new life. Unlike other species, automatons were borned with physical, linguistic, and emotional capabilities matching that of an adult. But one thing they lacked was intellectual knowledge. They were able to speak clearly and walk easily, but they didn't know a lot of things about the world around them. So, they were given basic education to help them learn about the world.
Fortunately, Aurelia managed to retain some semblance of knowledge from her past life—particularly about science and mathematics. She only needed to fill in a few gaps.
To aid in building up her new life, she was assigned a curator—a person who managed and cared for new automatons. The cost of living for the first few years would be funded by the Seminarium. After that, they had to either get a job or seek higher education. She planned to do the latter, so she needed to study to get into a school. Her school of choice was the Aurum Institute of Science, Technology, and Engineering. After hearing that she was a technician in her past life, she wanted to expand her horizons to more than just being a mining technician—she wanted to become an inventor. Inventors were a respected profession that created all of Ferrum’s technology. This desire may have hinted at Aurelia's past desires. Maybe she wanted to become an inventor in her past life, but got stuck being a mining technician.
For a couple of years, Aurelia built up a strong foundation of knowledge that would help in getting into Aurum. It was clear that she was a scientific mine as she had an empirical method to work out problems. She would find new problems that she wasn’t familiar with and then would observe and research them. After that, she would make a hypothesis based on her observations and research. Then, she would test if it was true or not. Finally, she would record her findings and whip up a conclusion. This flow of thinking was most exactly carried over from her past as a mining technician—solving problems. This made her a suitable candidate to become an inventor.
This way of thinking was very clearly shown when one day, the Cunabium’s electricity was shut down for days. People’s everyday life was really impacted by this, which spurred Aurelia to try and fix it. She spent a lot of time researching how electricity was distributed across Ferrum. In doing so, she discovered that to distribute electricity, Ferrum would be divided into different sections. Each section would be powered by a power plant. This was to ensure that if one section went down, the others wouldn’t. So, she hypothesized that the power plant that was powering the section that the Cunabium was in wasn’t working properly. To confirm this, she went out to the area around the Cunabium to see if anybody else had the same issue and indeed—they did. However, not everybody experienced the same issue.
The ratio of people who had electricity to people who didn’t was uneven and didn’t seem to have a pattern. So, she decided to directly go to the power plant to see what the problem was. Apparently, the wires that usually ran electricity from the plant somehow got disconnected. Not just disconnected, they looked like they were cut. The people at the plant were trying to fix it, but everytime they got close to finishing, the wires would be cut again the next day.
She went to investigate the wires and found that the cut was not clean, suggesting that the perpetrator was not well versed with wires or that the perpetrator—was not even a person at all. She assumed this because none of the other power plants in Ferrum were tampered with—only this one was. The wires that were cut seemed to have no pattern to them. She asked around for anything odd that may have happened around the area. One person responded, “Actually, it’s not just the wires at the power plant that were cut. People have been reporting that wires inside of their own homes have been cut as well. They’re stumped as to how they were cut, since they were in such a small space.”
Hearing this, she came up with a theory. She decided to camp out for the night near the power plant to see the perpetrators in action.
The workers at the power plant said, “It’s no use. We’ve already tried to stake out the perpetrators, but we never catch them. One minute the wires were fine and the next thing you know, they’re cut and the perpetrator was nowhere to be seen.” This didn’t discourage her—in fact—it emboldened that her theory might be true.
The night came and Aurelia was camping up. She was accompanied by a couple of workers that were desperate for anything that might help solve this problem. It was pitch black as the outside lights of the plant were not working. The only light source they had were some flashlights. They camped out for a while until they heard a squeaking noise. Aurelia tried to quietly go to the wires to catch the perpetrator in action. She instructed them to turn off their flashlights because it might alert the perpetrator. They got closer and closer to the wire and she instructed them to surround it. The squeaking noise got more and more louder as they approached. She then whispered, “Ok. On the count of three, I want you all to lunge towards the squeaking noise.” She started, “One…Two…Three!” They all lunged towards the noise and immediately caught something. They were trying to hold it down as it frantically tried to escape their grasp. The workers held on with all of their strength as Aurelia shined the flashlight on it—revealing the true perpetrator.
Turns out, the perpetrator was a rodent. It was squirming around trying to escape. She checked its teeth and found wires stuck in them. This had confirmed her theory that rodents were behind all of this. When she was first looking around the plant, she found a lot of rats hanging out in the outskirts of the plant. Coupled with people reporting that wires in their homes—which were in small spaces—were being cut, led her to believe that rodents were the one behind it. The next day, a team was assembled to help with capturing and relocating all these rodents. The plant also started constructing metal fences to keep any other rodents that might try to infiltrate. Technicians were assigned to fix the wiring inside of people’s homes that were affected.
The owners of the plant were so impressed with Aurelia’s achievement that they offered her a job working as a technician for the plant. She politely declined, “Thank you for the offer, but I have other plans for the future.”