Chapter 5:

No Straight Roads


Distance is distance. Unless you have access to a wormhole or some other means of teleportation, it’s inevitable that it takes time to reach a place. Then again, they do say ‘it’s about the journey, not the destination’, so maybe it really is a positive.

In other words, I, Azama Meyos, am trying to make the most out of my road trip with Rainee.

Having tended to my grandparents in the morning and my archnemesis rival Vorthal Blackhand over lunch, I was pretty much set to go.

Through a process of taking high speed rail, some walking, and finding Rainee’s car, we end up where we are now. Comfortably seated and enjoying ourselves to the maximum.

And by comfortable, I really do mean it!

This car, or rather van, is large enough to accommodate seven people, with two seats in the front, two in the middle, and a longer interconnected one in the back.


Each seat is layered by the hide of exotic creatures, expensive, durable, and just really comfortable all around!

Sinking my body into a cool cushion, I smile.

The phone in my right pocket vibrates.

Taking it out, I open my messaging application. Beneath a profile picture of Walediales posing in a suit is a text. Or to be more specific, an apology condensed in the form of one.

‘No harsh feelings Azama. You are still my favourite human, or blood bag (depending on the context of our relationship at the time). But ultimately, between the possibility of getting bombed by Rainee and sending you to him, I’ve chosen the former. Forgive me for the short notice, but he literally called right in between your last mission. Wherever you are, I wish you the best.’

‘Walediales’ I type. ‘You too are my favourite vampire, or pale skinned sovereign (depending on the context of our relationship at the time). I will probably be alright, because after all, I am Azamazing. Love you always <3.’

And…. Send! Now then, as much as I do love to converse with her, I should probably focus my mind on the task at hand.

Rainee who’s sitting on the seat opposing is looking at me after all. It just doesn’t feel right to leave someone who obviously wants to say something, hanging.

“So, Rainee, got anything in particular to relay to yours truly?

With his usual self-consciousness, he replies “we’re gonna be there pretty soon.” Then, looking away for a good few seconds, adds “so, yeah, there’s that.”

As per custom, he converses in a manner that betrays some innate inability to be comfortable, and fidgets over the tiniest details.

It seems then, that the quest of alleviating his stress, falls to me.

Consequently, I muse “that and many other new possibilities and adventures before us, no doubt.”

This eventually grants him some degree of measured confidence and he nods. Then, reaching into the middle table between us, he picks out a slice of cake. Eating a slice in two seconds, he then begins to cut himself another.

While I would propose to do it, given the efficiency of my cutting, I think it’s important that he develops his own skills. Which, speaking of, seems to actually not include the ability to drive.

To elaborate, no, I don’t mean it in a crude, condescending or fatalistic sense implying we’re about to nose-dive off a hill, but rather literally.

Simply put, the car we’re in is a wonder of artificial intelligence, so the need for any of us to tend to it, is null. Quite common in the USA these days actually.

Only reason Walediales didn’t have us in one is because vampires tend to be distrustful around machines. As a result, we’d just been eating and talking for the majority of the ride, simply basking in the moment, if you would.

“Damn, this is some nice cake.” Rainee says, simultaneously repeating himself for the seventh time while reaching for his tenth slice.

“I know right, mhmm.” I joke, taking a bite. “I wonder which wonderful and talented genius made it.”

The mage heaves out a sigh. “You did, Azama, you did.”

“Say, Rainee, what’s your impression of me so far?”

It’s a jarring question, completely disconnected from the previous. One I already know the answer to, even.

“Hey, you can’t just spring a question like that out of nowhere!”

“Next time I’ll give more of a physical indicator then.” I say, propelling my arms forward and shaking them.

Sorry Rainee, but teasing you is just way too entertaining.

“Well, I guess you’re uh, really strange,” he raises his hands out in defence.

“But like, in a good way though, like different, you know?”

“Huh, what?” I reply, cupping my ear. “You’re gonna have to be a bit more specific than that.”

To think the grandest mage falls prey to such acts.

“I mean, you just treat me like a normal person, which is, you know, pretty cool.”

Poor Rainee. Thinking that being treated like a normal person should be the exception. You deserve better!

“We belong to the same world after all, you might be a mage, and me a magicless cretin mercenary, but our spheres of operation aren’t that different.

“You say that, but even mages treat me like a walking bomb on a fuse.”

The ends of my lips curve upwards. “To some degree, you are.”

Amongst the top 1.4% who have the necessary vessels for magic, heirs or heiresses to the Althaiez line, throughout history, have been close to being the best.

Unlike other magical heritages, however, the vessels of an Althaiez are not passed through genetics.

It is a power instead, willingly handed from one to another. The product of an individual choice and decision.

One can only imagine the thought process behind choosing one like Rainee. While he is really entertaining, the logic behind what should be an objective decision, remains to be seen.

If I recall, the likely announced candidates 5 years back included elf emperor Vidayn, Scarlet Winter Iyovon, and the legendary Calinthio.

Yet, surpassing all of them was just a random man, some objectively random hedge mage from a backwater city and lineage.

You know, you gotta feel some degree of pity for the guy.

Considering that the country is run by literal mage families dating back hundreds of years, it's only natural that they find an idiosyncrasy like Rainee to be an issue.

An irregular in both ability and personality.

One uncontrollable by power, loyalty, or material possessions.

An aberration-.

When you think about it, Rainee is the perfect textbook protagonist. An underdog without ability chosen by some almighty mentor, forced into the limelight by forces beyond his control.

Only this protagonist is well past even his twenties and perhaps a tad more unkempt and dense than the usual one.

But hey, that only makes it more interesting if you ask me!

No doubt in dismay of his almighty magic, Rainee sighs, and gazes out the window. “You’re not wrong, but it just gets tiring after a while.”

What a travesty. To see such a sullen look is un-befitting. If he’s the strongest mage in the world, then he’s gotta live up to it. Having all that potential and power, and letting it go to waste.

Now wouldn’t that be a shame?

“Don’t worry.” I console, patting his shoulder. “Rest easy knowing that the Azamazing Azama Meyos will make everything better.”

I, of course, meant that with full sincerity.

“That being said, I truly am a culinary genius.”

There’s no lie in my words. Frankly, I can’t help but appreciate the cake in my mouth. To make, or much less invent such a delicious dessert, requires nothing short of brilliance.

Four layers, each the manifestation of culinary genius, those being, a layer of praline, orange curd, genoise and semifreddo; each coming together in a blend of creamy, slightly sour, soft goodness.

Oh dear, it seems I decided to flatter myself again. Look at poor old Rainee, looking to the sky for consolation. Well, when it comes to a cake this good, I suppose it’s inevitable to acknowledge one's overwhelming skills.

As I continue to mull over these thoughts however, a most intrusive idea pops into mind.

Could I be a narcissist?

Well, when it comes to a cake this good, I suppose it’s inevitable to acknowledge one's overwhelming skills. Or perhaps not, perhaps it’s but the delusion of a self-absorbed narcissist.

Is that what people mean when they say ignorance is bliss? Is this but the convenient truth, I oh so woefully, accept? Nah, I doubt it. Chances of me being a narcissist aren't that high. I did win a competition with my cake after all, so I would say my pride is well deserved, objectively speaking.

Though to be fair, there’s no saying one can’t be a narcissist and right at the same time.

“Oh, uh, we’re getting really close.”

It’s a question of perplexing regard, and entertainment, but ultimately one I’ll have to entertain another time. Because right now, there’s something far more important to tend to.

Outside the window, nestled on a picturesque hillside, is the ably named Althaiez Academy. A large multi-complex of several buildings, each designed in a different style, and a magnificent scenery to boot. By estimate, it can probably fit a few thousand students.

Wonderful, that just means a higher probability to meet new and adventurous personalities.

“Well done Rainee, to have such a wonderful assortment of aesthetic and design in one place, Azamazing if I may so myself!”

“Jeez, thanks, I uh.” He coughs. “Designed it myself”.

Woah, that’s genuinely really cool!

Despite my exquisite information gathering skills, I’d never even been aware of Rainee’s involvement in artistic representation. All this is quite new to me, all this design, landscape, buildings, and pavement, simply everything!

And what can I say? It makes me awfully excited!

“Rainee, you are without a doubt a genius, by metric of not just magic, but aesthetic taste.”

I watch Rainee's reaction; every fibre of muscle, body or face.

He feels like saying ‘thanks’ in response, but stops himself once a few seconds passes, having realised the awkwardness of interjecting post-conversation.

I feel interested in the outside world, and I begin to inspect the buildings outside again. Call it curiosity, call it fascination, I think both apply. Interestingly, it's at this time that something in particular catches my attention.

Something tall, pointy, and grey in the middle of a forest.

Oh, how peculiar.

There's a tall anachronistic stone tower there, situated far away from all the other buildings. Now maybe it's just me, but I find it to be a conveniently elaborate setup.

Maybe some secret experimentation or something along those lines.

“Jeez Rainee, what sorta sentient right violations are happening over there?”

“Oh.” He mutters. “You mean that tower?”


“Uh, well, the vampires and mages live there.”

His tone is strange. It’s as if he’s implying that’s an exception more than a rule.

“So, everyone else just huddles together, save for two infamously difficult types of people.”

“Uhhh, no. It’s uhhhh.” Rainee pauses, looking down, right, up, outside, then back to me. “The situation is a bit complicated.”

Seems the situation has a few more layers than I gave it credit for, hehe.

Well, I’ll find out soon enough. Might as well give old Rainee some time to articulate his thoughts. That and, there’s no point getting invested into such a conversation when we’re about to arrive.

Not a minute after we speak, our car comes to a halt. Stopping just short of an oversized parking area. We both exit at this point, and take a good look around. Occupied by maybe a dozen or so cars, out of a hundred and twenty spaces at best, the area is relatively empty.

Save for a tall stone figure sweeping the ground for leaves, that is.

“Rainee, you’re using golems as cleaners?”

He must’ve found it a natural question, so he just nods without so much as discomfort. I don’t exactly want to elaborate on it further, so I shift my focus to the school instead.

No more than a walk away, is one of the school buildings. Assuming it’s the main building, its outward appearance at the very least, is Azamazing.

I wonder what material it’s made out of. Most likely marble, given its reflective shine and white shade.

Which, speaking of, is also painted by a lovely blend of stripes of turquoise and cyan, some as if dumping water colour into a bath.

All in all, the price to pay for this must amount to over a billion Laines. Which, given that it takes two Laines to buy a bottle of juice, is quite a bit. Quite a bit by the standards of a ‘normal person’, that is.

It is Rainee we’re speaking of after all. If he doesn’t have the ability to conjure or make marble, he sure well does have the money to buy it.

After all, who’s going to refuse a walking nuke, am I right?

Tell that to anyone who says power and money doesn’t get you happiness, tell them that Rainee Althaiez and Azama Meyos, the unstoppable duo, are living the dream! Because yes, I have decreed that we are a duo now, though any other suitably awesome individual is fit to join too.

Now, while examining the outside is great and all, I’ve gotta say that speaking to the students inside, could be even more fun. Plus, that way I can also get a nice old examination of the indoors, aesthetic, floor plans, and all!

So there I am, swaggering to the entrance, swinging my arms like a cartoon caricature, when I stop. It’s at precisely two seconds, just when I step onto a stair, that I hear something.

Some sort of quaint ruckus, muffled by paned windows, it seems, most likely the triumphs of youth in hearing distance. Rainee, who undoubtedly, also notices this, gulps and muffles under his breath a very pronounced “Uhhhhhh.”

Which, upon further thought, does suggest a degree of discomfort.

Come to think of it, if the school is anything like Exquisite Love Magnificent day, then it should be filled to the brim with one-liner throwing teenagers, and supernaturally powered duels.

It’s at this moment however, that a sound of glass shattering erupts. Which, promptly followed by a triumphant yell of ‘suck on that ye dirty blue-blooded wench’, and ecstatic cheers, seems to come from a classroom above. I quickly turn my head to capture the moment, and manage to get a good taste of that lovely intensity for myself.

Oh dear, is that a blonde human, dressed in full plate, launched from the window, to a drop about triple my height?

Oh dear dear, is that a well-muscled girl smirking in a classroom? Standing with long scarlet hair, black sclera, and peering down with pride at her victory?

The answer to both of these is yes and yes, and goodness, this is all very exciting!

On the basis of my first impression alone, I must say that I’m already quite enraptured. Rainee, what a magnificent and Azamazing environment you’ve created!

To experience such a turn of events, to witness the follies and joys of youth firsthand, to be present in the domain of evolution and development, now isn’t that just wistful?

In fact, I’m so overwhelmed by such nostalgia and possibility for fun, that I thrust my hands into the air, and cheer along with the students. Slightly demeaning to the one just thrown out perhaps, but hey, we can always mend relationships later!

“Ceylica! Ceylica! Ceylica!” we yell in unison, though I don’t know who exactly that is (I’m assuming it’s the girl with the black sclera).

Steward McOy
Kya Hon
Taylor Victoria
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