"You should consider skin care, Lucius."
"I've told you about it a few times before, remember?"
I nod again.
"How it helps you look younger, brightens up your skin, and makes you better looking in general."
I give her another nod, swerving with slowed intensity.
"Do you enjoy being an asshole?"
That statement arouses my interest. In a bid to answer, I lower my sunglasses and take in her expression. That's Morgana. Standing just a metre away, a clipboard in hand. Short auburn hair, pointy ears, and a half-smile half-I'm going to kill you if you don't answer face that I'm more than used to.
"No, Morgana, unlike some people, inflicting pain does not bring any modicum of pleasure to me."
"Unlike some people, you also seem to lack the ability to respond with a simple yes or no".
I settle down the latest FULGER 3 Pro tablet in my hand and proceed to get up from my Rantasia Deluxe 3000 chair. Then, I stare outside, picking up a cool glass of elderberry lemonade from my glass table (of which brand I'm unaware). By combining my high-rise skyscraper and massive window stretching from one end to the other, I can study my city with a premier view. Remarkable. A scenery too distinct to be anywhere else but here. Tall skyscrapers, billboards the size of giants, advertising capitalistic goods, and a street so packed with people you'd think there was some festival going on.
That's Alpha-One. The number one city on the continent. Population of 23.4 million and the residential area of all the reigning billionaires. Perfect.
"You still haven't answered me about skincare."
She has an expression that's cooler than before, tempered by time. But still, frustrated, and knowing her, would persist until I gave a good reaction.
"Well, you see, Morgana, while I have nothing against skincare and do understand its applications, I don't particularly find myself attracted to the concept and doubt my ability to include it into my daily regimen. In addition, I'm already quite handsome enough and have you by my side, who takes care of any makeup, both physical and magical. Whatmore, given my half-elf lineage, age is a prospect I'm more or less unafraid of and very well see a near future of me still looking quite dapper."
My rant ends, and my point comes to a close. This is the time for celebration. This is when I stand quite smug and when Morgana nods, walks away, and takes my finished lemonade with her. Or, in other words, complete and utter victory.
Speech has always been my strong suit.
I glance at my right wrist and check my ROLEK watch. 13:34. Time for training. My heartbeat raises by a single BPM as I walk to a door on the outer perimeter of my room, prepared. I stop, however, when a shadow is overcast, evidently visible through the muddled glass of the door before me.
The door slides to the right, propelled by mechanical force. Here, my butler/tutor/mentor/parental figure stands. Great guy. 2.1 metres tall and thick as a tree stump. Short fire-red hair and beard to match, like one of those old-time heroes from stories.
I meet his green eyes, and he meets mine. We engage in a staredown. Neither of us moves. Then all of a sudden, he lurches forward, arms open. When I realise what will happen, it's already too late.
"Lucius!" Guillaume exclaims, holding me in the air like a ragdoll.
"AeGRgHRHJ". The sound of impending death escapes my lungs. I struggle like a limp fish in his grasp. Two-point five seconds. That's the amount of time I have before suffocation.
Guillaume smiles and nods. In acknowledgement, he settles my feet on the floor and pats me on the shoulder. Roughly, I inhale four separate breaths and grasp at my waist, simultaneously exaggerating for painstaking effect and simultaneously genuine.
"Oh, Lucius, it can't be that bad," says Morgana, her head peeking from behind my large hunk of a butler.
"It really is," I tell her. "Anyways". I continue, bringing myself against the wall. "What's the occasion? Strangling a minor is hardly your pastime Guillaume."
After chuckling for a good second, he winks.
"You're going to school."
I watch him from an upward angle, looking directly into his nostrils.
Once a second passes, the weight of his words hit me.
This is when I enter into denial.
Laugh. I want to laugh. My current emotional state wants to produce laughter in response but is unable to, knowing fully well that Guillaume is serious. Despite that, though, I still make the effort to ask, accepting the sub-zero possibility I might be wrong.
"You are serious, right?"
He stares at me, nods, and without hesitation, chuckles again.
I don't want to give up yet, though. The prospect of interacting with hormonal idiots on a day-to-day basis compels me to form a good counterargument. Teenagers are moronic. Everyone knows that.
"Guillaume". I declare, shrugging my shoulders and pushing up my glasses. "Certainly, you would understand why such a course of action would be idiotic. Statistically speaking, I'm already more intelligent than 99.9% of people. My knowledge of the arts, sciences and language also extends far beyond what a high school can offer, notwithstanding higher education. And I have a company to run. A business worth trillions in revenue. Do you see the problem?"
My eyes do not waver. No reaction. Not even a wink or a lift of a brow. Same old smile as usual. This is how it is with older people. They always place value on having lived longer over actual raw intelligence. Shame. People like Guillaume are why governments fail.
"Give up, Lucius," Morgana whispers, an evil look in her eyes. "Forfeit. Or continue. Keep talking, knowing your words have the same value as shit.”
“Some faeces like guano serve as an expensive fertilizer.”
“The only thing you’re fertilizing is your own suffering.”
What misfortune. Life really does suck sometimes. If I end up going to school, I can only imagine how awful it’ll be. Imagine sharing a room with someone, a toilet, or a wardrobe. What if my usual shower of thirteen minutes has to be cut it down to six because my roommate is an illiterate smelly monkey? What if. And what if the food is awful? And what if this, what if that, what if whatever. The uncertainty of all those what-ifs is what bothers me.
“And when do I start?”
Oh. Two days. The gears in my brain begin running, and I begin to process a series of maths to rationalize when it’ll be. By the end of 1.3 seconds, my calculations are complete.
Sixty hours. 3600 minutes. 21600 Seconds.
Turning around, I walk away, grabbing my tablet.
“Oh, and by the way, make sure the car is ready for my meeting with Alstron’s CEO in-”
Pain. A blunt force. I am cut mid-sentence as a fist meets my jaw, throwing me across the room onto my Aodalia MAIDEN HOME sofa. Ow. I pull my face backwards out of a pillow and watch my now menace of a butler.
“At the age of fifteen, hunters of Vardos are expected to skin and bring back a monster or demon the size of a deer.”
His monologue goes on.
“It’s expected that three in ten die and another six lose a limb”.
I wipe my cheek. At my lip is blood, and at the point of impact, the tender familiarity of a bruise. Bracing myself for a long-winded monologue, I inhale a deep brath.
“Lucius, I will allow you to stay in Alpha-One under one condition.”
Guillaume raises an index finger and smiles down at me, an eager Morgana walking to his side.
“If you beat the both of us in combat.”
So, an impossibility.
“That’s stupid. In the first place, I’m never going to be assaulted out of the blue by people as strong as you, so it’s not applicable to real life.”
“Well, you just were, weren’t you?” Morgana retorts, a resounding crunch resonating across the room as her foot crushes my pristine FULGER 3 Pro tablet.
“You do know that it was a unique model?” I sigh. Aside from the 200,000 laine price tag and it being the first ever produced, it was also signed by my three favourite movie stars.
Continuing my rant, I grab a golden Mont-Blanche fountain pen from my back pocket. My fingers tingle as magical energy flows into the object. In a split-second, the tip has become sharper than the finest needle, while the frame stronger than airplane-grade steel.
With a simple wrist flick, the pen flies across the room until it surgically plunges into its target; Morgana’s outstretched hand. Making quick work of the flesh and bone, the makeshift arrow comes out the other end before lodging itself in the wall with a satisfying thud.
Yet as I prepare to launch another volley of makeshift missiles, I suddenly find myself rapidly accelerating upwards along with the sofa.
Something is before me. There’s a figure ducked down, hands beyond sight. Eyes on the figure, the once quickened blur becomes a clear individual.
I see. It seems I made a small oversight. That is underestimating Guillaume’s speed.
Indeed, it seems my giant butler was not only able to launch me and a sofa multiple meters into the air but also to cross the room in less than a half-second.
Jumping ship, I abandon the flying sofa, hoping to soften my fall by taking a plush cushion with me.
I crash back to earth, narrowly dodging my Xpew designer glass table.
Yet as I attempt to stand, I find myself unable to move. Pain searing through my left hand, I note that it has been transpierced by a thin yellow needle. Morgana’s doing. I rush to pull the needle out with my right hand.
Then pain. All of a sudden, there’s a boot on my right hand and the crunch of bones soon after.
“A hand for a hand.”
I ignore her. Preparing a spell, I channel the mana in my body and lift my remaining left hand.
Too late. Another area of my body is afflicted with pain. This time, it’s my chest.
Feeling the air leave my lungs, I instinctively cradle my body as a shield. There, standing above me, is my supposedly loyal butler and my supposedly loyal assistant alongside him.
“GET HIM, GUILLAUME!”
The next minute is a bombardment of senses. The two repeatedly take turns kicking me from both sides, assaulting me from front to back. Meanwhile, more then enthusiastic groans and yells pierce the air, leading me to wonder how I ever enjoyed eating dinner with them.
“THAT’S FOR NOT USING SKINCARE!”
“CONSIDER THIS AN EXTENSION OF YOUR EDUCATION!”
Appeal to logos. Money runs the world… If I can just get them to come to their senses…
“You do know that I pay your salari-” I am cut off as a boot bashes my jaw.
“GUILLAUME HAS A TRUST FUND, YOU NARCISSIST!”
I relent, shutting my mouth as I wait for the storm of kicks and insults to pass. Although I thought it crazy at first, I gradually succumbed to the idea that I was indeed being mauled by my butler and assistant and eventually gave up on thinking.