Chapter 15:

Red Scarf Of Fate

Little Red Riding Witch

After the affinity ritual, Lucy was given a brand-new uniform for cadets at the camp, then soon dismissed from the premise. With not much else to do, for the first time in her life, the young girl had idle time for herself. But at the same time, since this freedom was only a first for her, Lucy soon found herself not having anything to do afterwards.

“Why not try sightseeing around town?” Those were the words suggested by Phoenix. “You can try getting to know our townspeople more.”

“I… guess,” Lucy reluctantly answered. Though she knew everyone here was more or less the same as her, the constant exposure to hurtful rumors from before had made her somewhat adverse to people around her. “Are you coming with me, your Highness?”

Lucy wanted someone to at least be there with her, both as a guide to show her around, and as a bridge for her to get used to the presence of others again. However, her hope was soon shot down with a heavy-hearted shake of the head.

“I’m sorry, Lucy dear, but we in the Ops are all incredibly busy. When we’re not on the front lines fighting, it’s logistic work, easing the populace, training recruits like you’ll soon be, etcetera. Trust me when I say I’d love to drop my work to join you.”

“… I understand,” Dejected, Lucy could only nod in response, leaving Phoenix’s quarters dragging her feet in place.

Though, in the end, she didn’t go anywhere particularly far. Finding herself an empty lot, Lucy sat there with her chin in her hand, aimlessly watching the bustling main street and its multitude of people in their various daily activities.

So, this is freedom, huh… Lucy thought. It’s kind of… boring.

Of course, even if she were given gold, Lucy would never want to return to those hellish days with her father. But she still had to admit that the time she spent with her Nana, or rather, with the witch Aife, was rather pleasant. It was a complete contrary to this scene that she had found herself in – peaceful, but completely devoid of any interest.

Lucy gazed towards a couple buying flowers at a stall for a minute, then changed her attention to someone grabbing fruits to the side. A young boy playing ball with his friends. Some women gossiping. Simple, mundane things that she had always seen before, but this time, when nothing was about her, a certain emptiness crept up within her.

Have things always been this dull?

“Wait!” A sudden shout interrupted Lucy’s train of thought. However, she knew that whatever that was, the owner of the shout wasn’t aiming at her. After all, she was sitting perfectly still.

“Hey, you over there! Please help me! Grab that thing!” The voice called out again, louder and clearer than before to confirm that it was indeed aiming at Lucy.

Turning to the direction of the shout, she saw a young boy around her age, his otherwise smooth skin glistening with sweat from all the running as well as the panic in him, chasing after a piece of red cloth fluttering in the air, which was indeed flying towards her at top speed.

Without much thought put into it, Lucy reached out to grab the cloth for the boy. But only after she raised her hand did she realize the weight of the situation.

If she were more observant, Lucy would have realized that the cloth was flying in the air despite the weather being windless. In a forest filled with magical species, cases like this were considered normal too, and so the young girl was lulled into a false sense of security. Her opponent was a lot faster than she had expected it to be, suddenly accelerating just when it was in her grasp to make its narrow escape.

“What the heck is that thing?” Astonished by the sudden development, Lucy frustratedly shouted and started running after it as well.

“Sorry!” The boy, who soon caught up to her, placed his hands together and prayed while still keeping his top speed. “It was an experimental spell gone wrong! That thing will keep getting faster the more it stays in the air!”

“Then how the heck are we supposed to catch it?”

“No choice but to beat it in a game of speed!” The boy shouted. “I’m going to kick it up a notch now! You should too!”

Before Lucy could even ask what he had meant, the boy had already shown his trump card.

“Gaoth, lán-chorp rua,” the boy mumbled. From the corner of his mouth, a series of green, tree root-like lines started running rampant on his body, spreading to every corner possible in a span of mere seconds. As the lines finished spreading over him, all of them glowed a bright light, and before Lucy could piece together the information, the boy had already sped up to something unimaginable, leaving behind only a trace of dust while he chased after his target.

Once again, Lucy was left with nothing to do, for the boy’s speed was far superior to his adversary’s. However, this time, curiosity had finally gotten the better of her, as she approached the boy with a whole slew of questions in her mind.

“Hey, you!” As she finally saw him slow down after grabbing the cloth by himself, Lucy called out. “Why didn’t you…”

Her question was meant to ask why the boy didn’t use that speed to catch the cloth from the start, but before the words could leave her mouth, she had already been forced to swallow them back.

The boy, who was still displaying a feat of speed unrivaled to anyone else she had seen, was now lying motionless on the street. Had it not been for his constant groaning in pain, passersby, Lucy included, would have thought that he had died on the spot.

“Uh… what happened?” After finally closing the distance between them, Lucy asked.

Replying to her, however, was still the same kind of groaning.

“A little help here…” the boy painstakingly lifted his head up, the only kind of activity that he could do at the moment without the rest of his muscles feeling like being burned alive and pleaded for help.

“Oh, right. Sorry,” Lucy offered her hand, and, as soon as the boy managed to grab it, pulled him up.

“Ouch! Please, be careful!” The boy immediately let out another cry of pain thanks to the sudden movement.

“Sorry…” Lucy could only apologize, but her curiosity had not diminished one bit. “What was that, by the way?”

After finally being able to lean himself on Lucy’s shoulder, the boy answered. “That was my, uh, attempt at a reinforcement spell.”

“Attempt?” Lucy asked with a confused look. “Didn’t you do it flawlessly?”

“If it was flawless, I wouldn’t have been like this,” with a bitter laugh, the boy continued. “My mana control is really bad. Like, really bad. I can never do a spell correctly; sometimes it would be too weak and slow, while other times it would be too strong for me to handle, like the thing with the cloth and my body.”

As an example, he tried to raise his arm to show her his trophy, but in the end, he could only lift it up a centimeter at most, before immediately contorting his face to that of a dried plum due to the pain.

“Easy now,” somehow, the scene before her caused Lucy to chuckle. She wasn’t sure herself, but Lucy had a feeling that she was loosening up her distance around him – a strange case of a mage, from the looks of it.

“Yeah, that’s why I tried to ask for help earlier…” the boy let out a defeated sigh before a sudden idea crossed his mind. “Actually, why didn’t you use any spell to catch it?”

“Oh, uh… I… don’t know any.”

“Don’t know any?” The boy was practically gasping at the claim. In this town, only Mythics and mages were present, so everyone had to have at least some degree of mana control in them. For a person to not have any, it could only mean that they were a human, and the thought of a human appearing here was impossible.

“I, uh… lost my abilities,” Lucy answered. Her situation was a lot more complex than that, but in her case, it was the shortest form of explanation. “They said it was due to selective amnesia.”

“So, you… don’t remember what you could do before?”

“More or less, yeah.”

“I guess that makes us alike, in a way,” a light chuckle came from the boy this time.

“In a way, huh…” Lucy mumbled. She had experienced this feeling before, but only once. It was not completely the same, but it was similar enough. Her first meeting with her brother, and now her meeting with this boy. A sense of kinship.

“Uh… I’m sorry if I struck a nerve,” the boy, thinking that she was offended by his words, quickly apologized. Fortunately, those words were enough to snap Lucy back to reality.

“Oh, no, it was nothing!” She answered. “I was just thinking a bit, that’s all.”

“Well, anyway, thank you, uh…”

Yeah, I remember this.

With a smile on her face, Lucy answered, repeating the same thing she had said that day. “Lucy. Lucy Starling.”

“Feall. Feall Svikari. Nice to meet you, Lucy.”

“Same here.”

“Oh, and by the way…” the boy, now Feall, having finally recovered enough to stand on his own, separated himself from her and asked. “Are you joining the Training Camp?”

“Training Camp?”

“It’s the special camp for new recruits to join the revolution army on the front lines. Isn’t the uniform you’re holding that of new cadets?”

Only at this moment did Lucy realize she was still holding the uniform in her hand the whole time.

“Oh, right, this thing… I am, but I’m a late entry.”

“What a coincidence! Me too!” Feall raised his voice in joy. “I got in through special recommendation, so I’m a late entry also.”

“Well, then I guess we’ll meet each other again soon,” Lucy answered with a happy grin.

“You bet. I’ll catch you at the camp!” Waving goodbye to his newfound friend, Feall disappeared from the scene as fast as he had appeared.