Chapter 36:

Alena Teaches Me All Kinds of Things I Didn't Actually Need to Know

Fighting For My Freedom In Another World

“After how much useful information we’ve already covered, I think it’s time for me to talk about something utterly useless instead. Can’t be getting too ahead of schedule, can we? Or what do you say, Maria?” Bookmark here

“I’d argue getting ahead of schedule would be a major advantage for us. Besides, I’m not really much of a fan of waiting.”Bookmark here

“It would have taken weeks to get that far if you were born in this world. Just be grateful I’m not making you wait that long.”Bookmark here

And just like that, I was condemned to spending a decent amount of time listening to something I really didn’t care about. Bookmark here

“What’s this useless stuff you think I should know about, then?”Bookmark here

“There’s a couple of different options I was considering, but… Why don’t I tell you about the history of magic? It’s pretty boring, but everyone here has to sit through a lecture on it at some point, so seems unfair for you to get a free pass just because you’re from another world.”Bookmark here

“You’re really going to make me listen to it just because of that?”
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“Yep! But I’d totally understand if you get fed up with it and hit me to make me stop. I felt like doing that more than a few times when I had to take classes on this stuff. Didn’t actually do it, of course. But I sure wanted to.”Bookmark here

Alena had a wistful look on her face as she reminisced. Somehow she wasn’t making it sound nearly as bad as she was claiming. Bookmark here

“Anyway, the history of magic. It all started with… Well, magic. Most people claim the gods gave it to us. Some say it was brought here from all the other worlds, a few pieces at a time. Then there’s also those that claim the gods brought it here from another world. Or people that say the gods themselves are from other worlds. And people that say there aren’t any gods in the first place, and people that claim… Well, you get the idea.”Bookmark here

“So which version am I supposed to believe?”Bookmark here

“Pick your poison, I guess? There’s nothing in the way of actual proof that says anything about any of those ideas in any way, just to be clear. This is all just stuff people made up.”Bookmark here

“Can you really justify calling it history at that point?”Bookmark here

“I don’t make those kinds of decisions”, Alena shrugged, “Not yet, anyway.”Bookmark here

Nobody actually knew anything about where magic came from, got it. That wouldn’t be too hard to remember. Bookmark here

“What I’m getting out of this is that no one actually knows anything. Is that a good enough summary?”Bookmark here

“My teachers would have screamed at you and you would definitely have failed the exam, if you even would have gotten any points at all, but otherwise I’d say you’re doing pretty well.”Bookmark here

And if I was going to be tested on it I would probably also have given a significantly less flippant response. By about 50% or so. Bookmark here

“What’s next? Nobody knew anything, and then…”Bookmark here

“Then comes the actual magic. At first there were just two types, nice and simple. Then people started getting better at those, got a deeper understanding, and… In due time, they realised there weren’t just two. It took way longer than it should have, but at some point the vast majority of people were forced to admit that they indeed had been wrong all along.Bookmark here

After that everyone kind of just collectively gave up on trying to classify all magic using the previously existing system, and that’s where we’re at now.”Bookmark here

Alena suddenly went silent. Bookmark here

Was that all? Was that really all there was to it?Bookmark here

“Am I missing something, or is all of that both not nearly as boring as you claimed it would be, and also rather short? But what was the point of telling me all of this, anyway?”Bookmark here

“I told you from the start, didn’t I? There wasn’t one. Feel free to hit me if that irritates you.”Bookmark here

“Alena, I’m not going to hit you. I won’t risk hurting you any more after what you’ve already been through.”Bookmark here

“You don’t need to worry that much. I’ll be fine! I like it, even. Just… Let it go, alright? I can stand a little pain.”Bookmark here

“You were unresponsive for a whole night. Do you seriously expect me to be able to just let it go that easily?”Bookmark here

Perhaps she was fine now, but I couldn’t know if that would be the case next time. If I went too wild one more time, and she ended up not recovering… Bookmark here

That was the kind of thing I knew I wouldn’t come back from. At that point it would have been better if I just had been executed from the start. If I did something like that I wouldn’t be any better than the actual witch, anyway…Bookmark here

For now, it was probably better to avoid that line of reasoning. To avoid starting that conversation. Bookmark here

“Let’s talk about something else, Alena. There’s something I’ve been wanting to know ever since I came here, anyway.”
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“I’ll be happy to satisfy your curiosity, whatever it may be about. Whatever it may be about.”Bookmark here

“You’re probably thinking of something much weirder than I am. You do realise that, right?”
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“Of course I do. But it’s more fun to imagine all the crazy possibilities, instead of just accepting reality and thinking about what you realistically may want to ask.”Bookmark here

What kind of things were she picturing, anyway?

“You know how I… How this body belonged to a witch? Didn’t the royal military also have a royal witch division? Yet I feel like I’ve only heard bad stuff whenever the word witch comes up, so… What’s the difference? Do people just hate them too? The same way they did… Same way they did the person I took the place of?”Bookmark here

“They’re not even kind of the same. She’s the witch. Like, people would call her that in everyday life. The royal witch corps just have the word ‘witch’ as part of their formal title. Nobody ever actually uses that to talk about them in other contexts. So don’t worry, Maria. You’re still the number one most hated witch in the country… Not that a lot of people know what you actually look like, anyway.”Bookmark here

Somehow I felt like each question I got answered just left me with another one to take its place.Bookmark here

“Why not? Wasn’t she pretty infamous?”
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“For burning everything in her way down? Yep. But not a lot of people will know what you look like if you kill 99% of the people you meet.”
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“I’ll keep that in mind. Who knows when it could prove useful?”
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“It wasn’t meant as advice, you know.”Bookmark here

I knew, all too well. Joking about it was just my way to take the edge off it, to some extent. It was easier than dealing with things headfirst. To face the reality of what I might have done. Bookmark here

Perhaps it was time to deal with the things I could, though. Bookmark here

“Alena, all this chatting is nice, but… Weren’t we going to do something?”
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“I was going to help you practice magic. I was just waiting to see how long it would take before you remembered. With that in mind, what did you want my help with?”Bookmark here

“I’m thinking that I need to be able to control my magic better. I can make my flames larger if I want to, but… Frankly speaking, that is not very useful if I can’t also make them smaller when I want to. At the moment”, I lit the smallest flame I could on top of my hand, “this is the smallest flame I can make. To start with, I’d like to see if I can get it smaller.”Bookmark here

Alena gave me a thumbs up. Bookmark here

“I like it. Why don’t you start by telling me what you’ve done so far? I can’t use fire magic myself, so it might help to know how stuff feels for you. To know the way you think about it.”Bookmark here

I told her about all my thoughts, about my reasoning up to that point. About what I had been able to accomplish and what I hadn’t. What I wanted to do, in what way, and my thoughts on how to get it done. Bookmark here

Alena thought about it for a while, then told me exactly what I expected to hear. Bookmark here

“I see. Looks like you really thought this through. I have both good news and bad news for you. I’d do the thing where I ask you which you want to hear first, but… I wouldn’t listen to what you told me anyway, so I’ll just say them in the order I feel like. Good news? I think that should absolutely be doable. Bad news? The only way you’ll be able to get there is practice.”
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“That’s it?”
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“Yep, that’s it. Now, get practising! I’ll just sit here and watch and nitpick every single tiny detail you get wrong. Don’t mind me.”

Alena flopped down on the nearby grass, and stared at me expectantly. Bookmark here

Guess I knew what I would be doing for the next few hours. Bookmark here

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