Chapter 14:

An Old Man Talks a Lot

Fighting For My Freedom In Another World

“I came from another world, one more… plentiful than this world. It was not much different as a whole, but there was certainly a fair share of reasons to prefer my old world. However, only one fact really matters for the context you need to understand this story: my old world had magic, much the same way this one does.”Bookmark here

I hadn’t really thought about it, but it made sense there would be more worlds than just my own and this one. If there were two, why not more? Bookmark here

“Not necessarily the same types of magic, or even magic that functioned the same way, but have magic it did. Mind, I never learned any myself, but I do know it existed. Now, when I came to this world I somehow ended up face-to-face with the king almost immediately. He basically told me to leave and never show my face in his country again, though in less polite terms.”Bookmark here

Somehow I could picture that all too easily, even though I never had met the king. Just something about the way I was treated after I came to this world, along with the ultimatum he apparently had given Alena regarding my life and whether I would get to keep it or not.Bookmark here

“But before leaving I had an opportunity to talk with someone high up. I don’t know who she was, but must have been the child of some high-ranking official. So I told her this thing about how unfair it all was, and at some point the thing about there being magic in my old world slipped in. That changed things.”Bookmark here

I was saved by not having any magic, by not even knowing anything about it, while this man was saved precisely because he came from a world that had magic. Consistency was clearly not what the royal family was best at. Bookmark here

“So she rushed to tell the king this, and suddenly the tone was way different from before. Have whatever you want, you’re our honourable guest. Want some help with figuring out what kind of magic you’re good at? Or anything else we can assist you with? They approached me, sounding like they wanted to help. Suddenly they started treating me as the next best thing to actual royalty. You see, apparently most people in this world are particularly good at one type of magic. Just as something they’re born with, without putting in any additional effort.”Bookmark here

I could use fire, while the princess could use illusions… It kind of checked out?Bookmark here

“But people from other worlds, they take whatever talent they had for magic in their old world with them, and can use it here too.”Bookmark here

I suddenly felt rather disappointed I came from one of those boring worlds that don’t have any magic. Bookmark here

“So that means you get twice the benefits with no real downside, and the king here really values that sort of thing. Using someone that can already do what you want them to from the start takes much less time and money than training up someone new, was what he said.”Bookmark here

Which… Would imply people in this world could also learn additional magic in addition to what they had from the start? Or was I just reading too deeply into the way this man was phrasing things?”Bookmark here

“So they treated me all nice until they found out what kind of magic it actually was I could do, got disappointed, and promptly pulled some strings to make sure I would be doomed to live in poverty for the rest of my life. That’s about it, really. Moral of the story: Don’t trust royalty. Ever. Both of you better be careful so you don’t get taken advantage of if you meet any.”
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“What kind of magic was it you were good at?”, the princess asked from in front of me.
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“Just some pointless party tricks… if even that. I can make grass grow faster. Just grass, not even any other plants. I got to try it on every plant in the royal gardens, and it didn’t work on any of them except your regular everyday plain old grass. Who would ever have any use for that? The king certainly didn’t, that’s for sure.”
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“What about the other type? From your old world?”
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“You see this light around me? It’s supposed to be a perfect replica of normal sunlight… but only in a tiny area around me. It’s convenient late at night, like now, but the rest of the time it’s just plain useless.”Bookmark here

At least his two types of magic seemed to complement each other well. Or maybe you wouldn’t need extra sunlight if you already could make your plants grow extra fast without it?Bookmark here

“What kinds of plants did you try? Just what was in the royal gardens?”
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“I’d hardly call that ‘just’. I can barely even remember all the flowers and trees I had to try using it on, only to be met with disappointment after disappointment…”
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“Still, it’s hardly a complete set of every kind of plant in the kingdom. The plants there are almost all selected purely for their beauty. You’d be missing basically every plant ever that you’d have any actual use for. Not being able to mass produce those could hardly be considered a major failing.”
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“How do you…?”
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“Know what plants are in the royal gardens? I live nearby and sneak in to steal a few every now and then. I even think I still have one with me now… Here, Maria, you want one?”Bookmark here

Alena lied without missing a beat, showing no signs she was telling anything except the purest of truths. As for why she had taken a random flower from the gardens with her… I had no idea. I had even less of a chance of comprehending why she was giving it to me, but I still gracefully accepted what looked suspiciously similar to a rose with a “thank you”.Bookmark here

“I didn’t just take that rose with me, actually. They’re not from the royal gardens, but I’ve got some herbs too. Just as many as I could fit in my pocket, and most of them already fell out when we ran into trouble earlier… But anyway, mister, did you ever try using your magic on any plants like these ones?”Bookmark here

Alena held up a couple of different plants I had no hope of being able to name, let alone tell apart from each other. Bookmark here

“I… I did not. I was never presented with any, and after how many times I failed I was far from eager to seek out any additional types on my own.”
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“Why not give this type a try sometime then? I can’t promise it would work, but worst thing that can happen is just that you fail again, and it’s not like that’s really going to change much of anything by now, is it? There’s no royalty here making demands of you to do anything specific, no one here to judge you for failing. You can try as much as you like, and nobody will care at all.”
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“Would you mind if I took a look at one of those herbs you’re holding, young lady?”
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“Sure, pick whichever one you like best.”Bookmark here

Alena shifted around a bit in my lap as she stretched out her open hand with some herbs in it towards the man. He picked up one and took a careful look at it. Then he placed it between both of his hands, and took a deep breath. Bookmark here

After a few seconds some sort of pale blue-ish glow started emanating from within his hands. When he separated them to reveal what was between, there were now two herbs instead of one. Bookmark here

That was… That was absolutely not what I pictured when he said he could make grass “grow faster”. In fact that description hardly sounded accurate if this was what his magic actually did. Bookmark here

“Yay, it worked! I’m happy for you… Your name was Felix, right?”
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“This… I was not expecting to make such a discovery so long after I already gave up… Thank you, young lady. This gift will be of great aid to everyone here. I must thank you from the bottom of my heart, truly. Is there anything I may do for you? I will do whatever you ask of me. You have my utmost gratitude.”
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“I-It’s not a that big deal! Anyway… we’ll be taking our leave now.”Bookmark here

The princess blushed, stood up, and then dragged me off with her towards the big tent we had been pointed to. It was probably… A few hundred meters away? Close enough that walking for a few minutes would be enough to reach it. Bookmark here

Alena suddenly started talking once the man was out of earshot. Bookmark here

“I...I remember that man. I was the one who advocated for him, a few years ago. The person he assumed to be the child of a ‘high-ranking official’ in his story was me. My father wanted to throw him away right away, but I begged for him to give the man just one chance, and he did. You already heard the rest of the story from the man himself. My efforts were all for naught, and in the end he was probably worse off because of me trying to vouch for him. I wanted to see if there at least was something I could do to make up for all the years of suffering my family must have caused him… I’m glad there was something, but that can’t be more than a tiny consolation compared to all the pain he must have endured...” Bookmark here

I stopped and hugged Alena. She looked like she needed a hug, so I gave her one.Bookmark here

“You tried. Sometimes that’s all you can do. And you managed to help him now, right? This way his powers will be used to aid those who really need it too, to help the people in here, instead of just being the king’s private property. It’s not all bad stuff.”
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“Thank you”, the princess smiled and leaned in closer. Bookmark here

As much as this may have been spectacularly bad timing on my part, I suddenly remembered that there was something else I wanted to know about, something that actually could prove useful to know if I ever needed to fight again. Bookmark here

“If you don’t mind me asking about something else we heard just now, do you have any kind of magic you’re especially good at, Alena? Like that man earlier?”
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“Maria, is… Is now really the right time to talk about that? But if you want to know, then… I have two, actually. But I’m from this world, so only one of them is the kind he was talking about.”
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“And that would be…?”
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“Physical enhancement. I make myself stronger, faster, or give myself more stamina… Whatever is the most convenient.”
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“Wouldn’t that have been pretty useful back when we got attacked? You could have made yourself super strong and taken both of them out.”
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“It’s not that simple. I can’t use it at the same time as my illusions… That’s more of a general rule, really. You can’t mix learned magic and magic acquired from ‘talent’ or whatever you’d like to call it. So sadly I didn’t have it at my disposal back then. Even ignoring that, it’s not like I can become immune to being stabbed. I’d still rather steer clear from fighting anyone that’s armed with anything pointy.”Bookmark here

All other things aside, how the princess was able to carry me for hours without showing any signs of being tired suddenly made a lot more sense than it once had. Bookmark here

I would have loved to say that we enjoyed our moment together for a while longer after that, before then going to check out the big tent we had been told to go to.
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That we had a good night’s rest and absolutely nothing went wrong.
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That we were able to continue our journey peacefully the next morning without a single issue.Bookmark here

Sadly, that’s not what happened. Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.